SKID CONTROL: Trooper shows how to navigate slippery situations
UTAH COUNTY — It’s an all too common sight on the roads during bad winter weather — a driver losing control and skidding, or even spinning out.
When in a skid, it is possible for a driver to regain control, but one driving expert maintains it’s best not to get into that situation in the first place by keeping speeds down when it’s snowing and icy outside.
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Napierski teaches other troopers how to drive and pull off a number of different technical maneuvers in their cruisers.
On Thursday — with yet another winter storm expected to hit the Wasatch Front over the weekend — he got into a cruiser with a KSL TV crew on a track in Utah County. Though it was a dry track, the rear tires of the vehicle were configured with specially-made tire skins that helped simulate black ice conditions.
“The biggest mistake that we see is people driving too fast in snowy conditions as they’re too fast and they make a lane change and run over the slush strip that’s between the two lanes where it’s not being traveled,” Napierski explained. “Their vehicle starts to hydroplane, they get put into a skid and some will counter-steer the right direction, but they won’t do it quick enough or put enough steering in. And if you don’t put enough steering in, and then later try to put more steering in to pick up the skid, the back end is going to pass the front end and you’re going to spin out of control.”
Steering hard into the direction of the skid — meaning the direction the rear of the car is going — is easier said than done when caught by surprise by the feeling of a car losing control.
“The steering needs to be aggressive and immediate,” Napierski instructed. “[If the] back of the car starts to break loose, if we steer into it, we can then bring our car back in front of the back and then bring the vehicle to a stop.”
Napierski acknowledged with the specially-configured skins on the rear tires, skid control was a difficult skill to master for anyone, but it was something that the department was putting troopers through to better train them for what they might encounter on wintery roads.
He also said the best practice “even with all the training in the world” was to never put oneself into a situation where navigating out of a skid is necessary.
“High-speed skids are high-consequence skids,” Napierski said. “It can be life or death.”
Napierski urged drivers to respect the conditions they find during winter weather and slow down.
“You have no business doing skid control work on I-15 around other drivers,” Napierski said. “That’s always scary.”
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