Skidding is one of the greatest hazards of winter driving. If drivers could learn to?
Skidding is one of the greatest hazards of winter driving. If drivers could learn to anticipate and prevent skids and even control those that are unavoidable, many lives could be saved each winter. In Britain, no less than 14 percent of all road accidents are officially attributed to skidding.
A Few years ago a young Dutch jet pilot, A. R. Slotemaker, decide to see what he could do to make winter driving less hazardous. On days when he was grounded by weather he would test one technique after another on the ice-coated runways. Gradually he evolved a technique to control skidding, then had its validity checked by a professor of mathematics who corroborated Slotemaker's findings.
After he left the Royal Dutch Air Force he founded an Anti-skid School in Holland, followed by a second, and then one in England. To these schools come drivers whose work requires them to be on the roads in all types of weather -- police, fire equipment, ambulance drivers, doctors as well as racing and rally drivers.
Slotemaker maintains that skidding is as natural a part of the behavior of any four-wheeled vehicle as its ability to steer. There is nothing at all mysterious about skidding. Once it is clearly understood, its mastery is as logical a process as any other expected of driver.
This is an especially significant point when you consider that the words, "but I Skidded", are considered by most drivers as a legitimate excuse for an accident -- rather than an open admission of a serious defect in their driving ability.
Slotemaker and his instructors believe that avoiding or controlling a skid cannot be learned from books. It has to be practiced and must become instinctive. Every vehicle has its own "safety angle," which averages about 25 degrees to the normal direction of travel, though it varies with steering lock, weight distribution and other factors. Up to this angle, control can be re-established. If the vehicle is allowed to assume a greater angle, the point of no return has been reached. It is therefore necessary to counter-steer early, so early, indeed, that the reaction has to be instinctive and virtually instantaneous. The earlier the correction, the less severe is the skid allowed to become. Too many drivers, they say, first experience a skid on the highway and their reaction is too slow.
The No.1 rule at the Anti-Skid Schools is that to skid for the sake of skidding is not clever; above all, a skid is something to be avoided if possible, corrected if unavoidable. The school does not aim to produce stunt drivers, but to teach ordinary motorists how to suppress skids at the start, how to anticipate and control them.
There are three stages involved in the instruction: the first is a short lecture illustrated by use of small model cars. Students are taught the rules for skid correction.
The second step is practicing in an automobile with an Anti-skid school instructor. He induces skidding when you least expect it with a separate brake pedal on his side of the car. He emphasizes: (1) counter-steer early; (2) correct secondary skid which always occurs.
The third step, the most advanced, is to train the driver to avoid any other maneuvers -- a natural tendency -- until his vehicle has been straightened and stabilized.
Safe controlling of skids will be demonstrated by Slotemaker and two instructors from Britain under the auspices of Renault and in support of the National Safety Council. The demonstrations will be open to safety and public service officials involved in driving under all weather conditions, and to the press.