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Oversteer or understeer, know where you want to go to regain control on icy roads

Posted February 18, 2021 12:46 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2022 10:32 a.m. EST

Dash cam footage from the Nebraska State Patrol captured the terrifying moments when a Jeep hit ice, lost control, swerved from side to side and then tumbled off the road into a ditch.

"If there was ever a time when slow and steady wins the race applies, it's in this case, where you have the potential to lose traction," says auto safety expert and head of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center Jennifer Stockburger.

She says when drivers hit a slick spot, anti-lock brakes can help to safely stop and regain control.

You’ll know they’re working when they start to pulse against your foot. Keep your foot on the brake, maintain firm pressure and let the brakes do their job.

Stockburger says if your car does slide, "There are really two kinds of skids, OVERSTEER and UNDERSTEER. In both cases, the reaction should be to turn in the direction you want the car to go."

She adds, "With oversteer, it’s very intuitive. You turn into the skid and when you gain grip you end up going where you want to go. In understeer, you’re turning, but the car is going straight ahead and your gut is to want to dial in more steering. Don’t do that. Keep the wheel steady where you’re headed so that when you gain grip, you are going where you want to be. In both cases, avoid abrupt motions.”

Also, check your dashboard for a snowflake icon. The warning light lets you know when temperatures drop to the point there’s potential for ice on the road.

And always wear your seatbelt. The two people in that Jeep had only minor injuries, thanks to their seatbelts.

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