Do you know what to do if you find yourself fishtailing on a slippery road this winter? Knowing how to counter-steer could help you avoid a deadly collision.

What Not to Do

When your car slips, skids, or slides on an icy road, your first instinct might be to panic and slam on the brakes. Don’t. You might also be tempted to turn the steering wheel as hard as possible in the opposite direction to try to straighten out the car’s path, but fighting too hard to overcompensate for the change of direction could result in a second skid. Instead, try to stay relaxed and operate the vehicle as smoothly and gently as possible to avoid making the situation worse.

What “Turn Into the Skid” Really Means

The phrase “turn into the skid” can be confusing. If your wheels slide toward one direction but the car spins another, which direction is “into” the skid? Rather than struggling to figure out that riddle during a high-pressure situation that requires you to make an instant decision, keep your understanding of this advice as simple as possible. Look and steer the vehicle in the direction you want to travel. This is what “turn into the skid” means, because you’re not focusing on fighting the skid but instead guiding the car in the desired direction. It’s also called “counter-steering.”

Counter-steering should help you regain at least partial control over the vehicle. Your next step varies based on whether it’s your rear or front wheels that are skidding. If your rear wheels are the problem (or part of the problem), accelerate. If your front wheels alone are sliding, it’s time to brake. The goal is to help your sliding wheels regain traction, so whatever you do, do it gently – otherwise you risk losing control of the car all over again.

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