Three things you can actually do while in a skid

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Up here in New England, black ice season starts, and we begin to see the “3 Things You Can Do to Recover from a Skid” articles. As evidenced from last year’s disaster down in Atlanta, nobody south of the Mason-Dixon line read any of those. There’s advice out there, but truthfully, here’s what we really do when the road suddenly turns to a sheet of glass.

Most of the articles you see are written by men who learned to drive rear-wheel drive cars on bias ply tires before the invention of anti-lock brakes, stability control and night baseball.  The idea is to give people who never drove a car sideways some hope that if they find themselves in a skid, they’ll remember what they read, then apply that new knowledge and miraculously avoid the fire hydrant approaching their driver’s side window.

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I went to driving school and learned what to do in these situations.  The first thing I learned though is that if you don’t practice it – a lot – just knowing what you should do doesn’t help.  However, I have compiled some practical things you can do as the fire hydrant approaches to keep you busy while you wait for the inevitable impact.

Skid Recovery Step 1 – The Rebel Yell


If you find yourself in a skid and see that an impact is more than likely, one thing worth considering is a hearty rebel yell. Let’s face it, you are going to want to retell this story when you’re older and if in the story you are letting out a war-whoop it is a better story.  A study in the New England Journal of Alternative Medicine also concluded that impacts from stationary objects are often less damaging to people screaming at the top of their lungs.

Skid Recovery Step 2 -The Compilation of Excuses


As you see the crash coming, list out all the reasons it is not your fault. My favorite is “The car just skidded-out.”  This is going to get you a head-shake from anyone in any sort of authority, so you should build on it.  “An animal darted out in front of me. Chased by a child.  I took decisive action.”  Now you’re rolling.  Consider adding “Although the road was icy, I managed to use the fire hydrant to stop my sideways progress after I employed a successful Scandinavian-flick to rotate the car and avoid both.”  This shows intent and implies you were acting responsibly.

Skid Recovery Step 3– Pick up your feet and look where you would prefer to go


Maksim Toome /

OK, just in case I am standing between you and that hydrant, I will tell you what you can try. Pick up your feet and look where you want to go instead of at the hydrant coming ever closer.  This is the one-sentence summary of those other stories written by the old guys in Oldsmobiles.  It’s worth a try.  So in summary:

  1. Scream like you mean it
  2. Begin to build your story
  3. Pick up your feet and look away

After you crash, don’t feel dumb for reading an article on how not to crash. Instead, take a quick look around.  Has anyone seen you skid into the fire hydrant?  This is a yes or no question.  “Only my crazy neighbor Betty” is a “Yes.”  If nobody at all sees you, your excuses are now rock-solid.  That’s your story and you’re sticking to it.