• February 18, 2024
  • Blog
What To Do If Your Car Starts to Skid

When your car starts to skid on a slippery road, it can be a heart-pounding experience, fraught with panic and uncertainty. Skidding, a common occurrence in adverse driving conditions, demands a calm and knowledgeable response from the driver. Understanding why skids happen, how to prevent them, and the critical steps to take if you find yourself in one can significantly enhance your safety and that of others on the road. This comprehensive guide delves into the nuances of skidding, including its causes, types, and the appropriate corrective actions to regain control of your vehicle.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding Skidding
  2. Causes of Skids
  3. Hydroplaning: A Skid Catalyst
  4. The Danger of Hydroplaning
  5. Responding to Hydroplaning
  6. Corrective Measures for Skidding
  7. Preventing Skids
  8. If You Get Stuck
  9. Post-Accident Steps
  10. Legal Implications of Skidding Accidents
  11. Skid Accident Liability
  12. Prevalence of Skid Accidents
  13. Seeking Legal Assistance in Colorado

Understanding Skidding

Understanding the mechanics of skidding is pivotal for every driver, as it equips you with the knowledge to prevent potential accidents and handle unexpected situations on the road. Skidding is not merely a loss of control; it represents a critical point where your vehicle’s tires can no longer maintain their intended path due to insufficient traction. This phenomenon can lead to various outcomes, ranging from minor deviations from your path to severe accidents. Delving deeper into the reasons behind skidding can offer insights into how to mitigate its risks.


The Physics Behind Skidding

At the heart of skidding lies a fundamental principle of physics: friction. The friction between your vehicle’s tires and the road surface is what allows you to steer, accelerate, and brake effectively. When this friction is compromised, control over the vehicle diminishes, leading to skidding. Several factors can reduce this crucial friction, including:

Surface Conditions: Ice, snow, and water are the primary culprits that reduce road friction. However, even dry leaves, gravel, or an excess of dust can create a slippery layer, diminishing tire grip.

Vehicle Speed: Higher speeds increase the distance and time required for a vehicle to stop. They also make the vehicle more susceptible to forces that can cause skidding, such as sharp turns or sudden stops.

Tire Condition: Worn-out tires significantly reduce a vehicle’s grip on the road. The tread depth on your tires is designed to channel water away from the tire’s surface and maintain contact with the road. As tires wear down, their ability to do these decreases, increasing the risk of skidding.

Driver Actions: Abrupt steering, harsh braking, and aggressive acceleration can all lead to skidding. These actions can cause the tires to surpass their traction limit, especially in poor driving conditions.

Types of Skidding

Skidding can manifest in several ways, depending on which tires lose grip:

Understeer: This occurs when the front tires lose traction during a turn, leading the vehicle to continue straight instead of following the curve of the road.

Oversteer: Conversely, oversteer happens when the rear tires lose grip, causing the rear of the vehicle to swing out.

Locking up: A locked wheel skid can happen during abrupt braking, where one or more wheels stop rotating and slide along the surface of the road.


Preventing Skidding

Understanding the causes and types of skidding is the first step in prevention. Here are some strategies to minimize the risk of skidding:

Maintain your vehicle: Regular checks and maintenance of your vehicle’s tires, brakes, and suspension system can significantly reduce the risk of skidding. Ensure your tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread depth.

Adjust for conditions: Modifying your driving behavior according to road conditions is crucial. Slow down on slippery surfaces, avoid sudden maneuvers, and increase your following distance.

Use technology: Many modern vehicles are equipped with anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC), which can help prevent skidding. Familiarize yourself with these systems and understand how they assist in maintaining control.

Skid Recovery Techniques

Despite precautions, skids can still occur. Knowing how to react can help you regain control:

Steer gently: In a skid, steer smoothly in the direction you want to go. Overcorrection can exacerbate the skid.

Avoid slamming on the brakes: If you don’t have ABS, brake gently. If your vehicle is equipped with ABS, maintain firm pressure on the brake pedal, and steer as needed.

Ease off the accelerator: If your vehicle begins to skid while accelerating, ease off the accelerator gently to help regain traction.

Understanding skidding thoroughly provides a solid foundation for safe driving. By recognizing the warning signs, causes, and appropriate responses to skidding, drivers can significantly enhance their ability to navigate hazardous situations on the road confidently and safely.


Causes of Skids

The primary cause of skidding is typically a discrepancy between the direction the wheels are pointing and the direction the vehicle is moving. This mismatch can result from several factors, including excessive speed, sudden steering, harsh braking, or acceleration, especially on slippery surfaces.

Hydroplaning: A Skid Catalyst

Hydroplaning, a specific form of skidding, occurs when a layer of water builds between the tires and the road, leading to a loss of traction. This phenomenon can make steering and braking effectively impossible, momentarily taking control away from the driver.

The Danger of Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning is perilous because it strips you of the ability to influence your vehicle’s direction or speed. The loss of direct contact with the road surface means that conventional steering and braking inputs may not yield the expected vehicle response.

Responding to Hydroplaning

If you are hydroplaning, your first course of action should be to gently lift your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction you intend to go. Avoid abrupt braking or steering movements, as these can exacerbate the skid.


Corrective Measures for Skidding

When your car begins to skid, it’s crucial to remain calm and remember key principles to correct the skid effectively. Here are tailored responses depending on the skid type:

If your front wheels skid: Ease off the accelerator and avoid immediate steering. As traction returns, gently steer in the direction you wish to go.

If your rear wheels skid: Steer in the same direction that the rear of the vehicle is sliding. If the rear is veering right, steer right. Once control is regained, straighten the steering wheel.

Preventing Skids

Anticipatory driving and vehicle maintenance are pivotal in skid prevention. This includes monitoring speed, maintaining tire health, and adopting smooth driving techniques, especially under less-than-ideal road conditions.

If You Get Stuck

In scenarios where you’re stuck due to skidding off the road, prioritize safety by signaling distress and staying with your vehicle if safe. Use resources like sand or cat litter under the tires to enhance traction if attempting to self-recover.

Aquaplaning Water Rain

Post-Accident Steps

If a skid results in a crash, assess for injuries, call emergency services, and document the incident for insurance and legal purposes. Exchanging information with any involved parties and witnesses is also crucial.

Skidding accidents can lead to traffic citations, depending on the circumstances leading to the skid, such as reckless driving behaviors. Determining fault in these incidents often hinges on evidence of negligence, like ignoring road conditions or failing to maintain a vehicle properly.

Skid Accident Liability

Liability in skidding accidents is complex, involving factors like driver action/inaction, road conditions, and vehicle maintenance. Generally, drivers are expected to operate their vehicles safely, considering the conditions, with failure to do so potentially leading to fault in an accident.

Prevalence of Skid Accidents

Skid accidents are more common in regions experiencing severe winter weather, where ice and snow are prevalent, but they can also occur in rainy conditions or where roads are poorly maintained.


For residents of Colorado, or any state facing a skid-induced accident, consulting with an attorney specializing in vehicle accidents can be invaluable. Legal experts can navigate the intricacies of accident claims, ensuring you receive fair compensation for damages and injuries.

Ensuring Fair Compensation

Victims of skidding accidents deserve just compensation for their losses, which can include medical expenses, vehicle repair costs, and lost wages. A skilled attorney can advocate on your behalf, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you are entitled to.

In conclusion, understanding the dynamics of skidding, the appropriate preventive and corrective actions, and the legal landscape is essential for any driver. By equipping yourself with this knowledge, you can enhance your safety on the road, reduce the likelihood of skidding incidents, and ensure that you’re prepared to handle the aftermath should one occur.

Author Photo

Written and Legally Reviewed ByJacob Galperin

Jacob Galperin is a litigation attorney with an emphasis in personal injury. He has represented hundreds of injured victims and has been able to recover millions in compensation for his clients.

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