California Driver Handbook - Important Driving Tips
Slow down when there is a lot of water on the road. In a heavy rain at speeds of 50 mph or more, your tires can lose all contact with the road and then your vehicle will be riding on water or "hydroplaning." A slight change of direction or a gust of wind could throw your vehicle into a skid. If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, slow down gradually–do not apply the brakes.
Slow down at the first sign of rain, especially after a dry spell. This is when many roads are the most slippery, because oil and dust have not washed away. A slippery road will not give your tires the grip they need. Drive more slowly than you would on a dry road. Adjust your speed as follows:
- Wet road–go five–ten miles slower.
- Packed snow–reduce your speed by half.
- Ice–slow to a crawl.
Some road surfaces are more slippery than others when wet and usually have warning signs posted. Here are some clues to help you spot slippery roads:
- On cold, wet days, shade from trees or buildings can hide spots of ice. These areas freeze first and dry out last.
- Bridges and overpasses tend to freeze before the rest of the road does. They can hide spots of ice.
- If it starts to rain on a hot day, the pavement can be very slippery for the first several minutes. Heat causes oil in the asphalt to come to the surface. The oil makes the road slippery until the rain washes the oil off the surface of the road.
A road that is normally safe can become dangerous when it is slippery. Ice and packed snow on the road can cause your vehicle to skid, especially if you are driving too fast or going downhill. If you start to skid:
- Ease off the gas pedal,
- Stop braking, and
- Turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid.
If you cannot control your vehicle on a slippery surface, try to find something to stop the skid. Try to get a wheel on dry pavement or on the shoulder of the road. You may have to edge slowly into a snow bank or some bushes to stop the vehicle.
To prevent skidding on slippery surfaces:
- Drive slowly and stay farther behind the vehicle ahead of you.
- Slow down, as you approach curves and intersections.
- Avoid fast turns.
- Avoid quick stops. "Pump" the brakes to slow or stop. (Do not pump antilock brakes.)
- Shift to low gear before going down a steep hill.
- Avoid especially slippery areas, such as ice patches, wet leaves, oil, or deep puddles.
If the brakes get wet, dry them by lightly pressing the gas pedal and brake pedal at the same time so that the vehicle drives against the pressure of the brakes. Perform this light pressing only until the brakes dry.
An acceleration skid usually happens when the drive wheels lose traction on the road surface. To maintain control of a skidding vehicle, do not apply the brakes. Ease off the gas pedal and straighten the front wheels as the vehicle begins to straighten itself out.
This type of skid is usually caused by braking too hard at a high rate of speed and locking the wheels. The vehicle will skid no matter which way the steering wheel is turned. Take your foot off the brake to unlock the wheels. Then, straighten the front wheels as the vehicle begins to straighten out. Slow the vehicle gradually until you are at a safe speed to continue driving.
If your accelerator becomes stuck you should:
- Shift to neutral.
- Apply the brakes.
- Keep your eyes on the road.
- Look for an alternate route away from traffic or look for a way out.
- Warn other drivers by honking and flashing your emergency lights.
- Try to drive the car safely off the road.
- Stop and turn off the ignition.
WARNING: Turning the ignition off while the vehicle is moving may lock the steering wheel; you will not have control of the steering.
Never turn your vehicle’s ignition to the "lock" position while it is still in motion; the steering will lock and you will lose control of your vehicle.