One of the principal causes of crashes is how the driver reacts to dropping a wheel or two off the road.
This is most often caused by inexperience, weariness or inattention — or a combination of one or more of these.
If you ever wondered what those long, twisting black marks are on the road going from one side to another, the chances are they were caused by someone reacting too severely to dropping their wheels off the paved surface unto the shoulder.
If there is sufficient room and time, you can apply gentle brake pressure to further reduce speed before steering back unto the road.
Click here for the full story as it appeared in the Halifax Herald and other Saltwire Network papers.
If you are not familiar with what to do in this situation — practise. Find a piece of straight and level road with good sight lines, little traffic and a smooth shoulder with no drop off. Driving slowly, barely more than at idle speed.
Gradually steer so that the right side wheels leave the road and go onto the shoulder. Feel the sensation in the wheel and listen for the difference in tire noise. Keep looking way down the road, gradually steering back unto the road.
Do this repeatedly, gradually increasing your speed as you become more comfortable and experienced. If the two surfaces are at distinctly different levels, i.e. if the shoulder is more than a few centimetres lower than the pavement, the steering input (amount the wheel is turned) might have to be slightly greater to allow the front tire to crawl back onto the road.
The trick is to be smooth
The trick here is to be smooth and deliberate in your reactions. With two wheels on a grippy paved surface and two on a loose surface with hardly any grip, traction is minimal.
The worst thing you can do is to suddenly place an additional load on the front tires — which is what happens when you apply too much steering input.
If the vehicle is older and does not have ABS, the same amount of stopping force is applied to each front tire.
Guess what happens? The one with the grip grabs the road and the one with none loses contact and starts to slide.
ABS is important
Since the tire with traction is the one on the road —the left tire — it generates almost all the braking pressure, pulling the vehicle violently back unto the road.
If the driver is not extremely alert and practiced, he or she will not be able to recognize this in time to take corrective action and the vehicle will be pulled into the opposite lane or ditch.
Here is one of the instances where ABS is so important. If the vehicle is equipped with ABS, even the wrong reaction — jumping on the brakes — will be electronically corrected.
The physics and reactions at work here become more significant in poor traction conditions — gravel roads, wet roads and most importantly, winter driving.
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