How to Avoid an Obstacle on a Slippery Surface Without ABS

No anti-lock brakes installed? Forget pumping the's a better technique!


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    Stomp on the brakes. This will lock up all four wheels, slowing you down very quickly.
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    Release a generous amount of pressure. Turn the wheel about 1/4 to 1/2 of a turn. Any more will cause under-steer and you'll side into the obstacle.
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    Look where you want the car to go (the solution) and not at the obstacle (the problem). This will allow you to steer away from the obstacle and to get over the urge to stay on the brakes. The way to do this is:
    • Shake your whole head away from the obstacle: This will force your eyes to follow.
    • Focus on a visual target down the road in which you seek to escape.
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    After you pass the obstacle, steer back into your lane while keeping your eyes up, looking for more potential problems.
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    Get the car stabilized, resume braking and stay on the brakes until your vehicle comes to a complete stop.


  • Always remember to brake first, then steer. While in theory you can steer round an object faster than you can stop before it, there are some factors to consider:
    • The option of swerving might not be so possible, amongst the traffic, guardrails, and road shoulders. Meanwhile, as you think in which direction to swerve, the car is still rolling quickly towards the obstacle, and you eventually just panic or stare at it.
    • The success of an evasive maneuver depends most of all on speed. Unless a great deal of speed has been wiped off, the car might not swerve in an arch wide enough to avoid the obstacle (under-steer) regardless of how much the wheel is turned, or it might alternatively spin, and still has a great chance of hitting the original target with the tail.
    • Using the brakes will enable you to wipe off speed, earn time to react more properly in, and will increase the traction of the guiding wheels, allowing for a better turn as you evade the object. It will also help to warn the other road users, and will at least scrub off speed, if you were to indeed hit the object.
  • Practice this technique in an empty parking lot after a snow fall. The more you understand how your car will react, the better you'll do in a real situation.
  • In order to make a clean swerve you need to stay partially on the brakes, steer decisively though not too sharply, than quickly steer just as much in the opposite direction, than bring it back straight. Ideally, you would be driving with your hands gripping the wheel at 9 & 3 with the thumbs hooked inside, quickly turn the wheel until the forearms cross, immediately turn them the other way until they cross yet again, and than pull it straight.
    • The chance of the impact occurring and the airbag inflating as the forearms cross is minimal. You cannot steer around the bottom of the wheel during such a procedure, you need to take action to prevent the airbag from inflating in the first place, despite of a small risk that you take every time you set out to drive.
    • Keep the thumbs hooked under the cross brace even as the wheel is turned 190 degrees, this will optimize control and grip. Unless you are really off-road, the thumb should be safe on it's padded detent, or on the rim (if the spores are located lower). a 10 to-2 grip is, in this aspect, very crippled. Note that in 9 to-3 the hands have a leverage of 260 degrees, allowing for even more lock to be added if necessary. An 8 to-4 grip is very not recommended, and will not provide neither control nor safety of hand fractures.
    • Shuffling the hands, crossing them or any other technique, is not recommended during such a maneuver. Just hold the wheel with both hands and jerk it from side to side.
  • Never look at the problem too long. It has been shown time and time again that our cars go where our eyes are looking. Why do you think people hit telephone poles that are spaced out by 60 meters?
  • Don't hesitate to brake. The natural tendency is to start off with moderate braking and, when this appears to not help, increase pressure. It's better to start off hard (throw the foot at the brakes) and release if necessary.
  • Shift your gear in to a lower transmission, this will let the motor run at high rpms. And will slow the car down in a quite safe manner.


  • Make sure you know if your car is ABS equipped or not! If you have ABS, you can and should keep the brakes deeply threaded throughout the entire procedure.
  • Do not squeeze: if squeeze, you are, for a considerable amount of distance, not braking sufficiently. Near most crash sites, tires marks are only very short and appear near the accident, showing that the driver tried to squeeze, and paid for it dearly.
    • When squeezing down and attempting threshold braking when surprised, it is common to brake too weak, about 60%.
    • In the wet, you might lock-up only the front two wheels, leaving the rear unlocked, possibly losing control.
  • Do not pump, as this method is very in-efficient:
    • Pumping will always make the braking distance dramatically longer. Technically, it's about twice the distance of hard braking. But in real world conditions, adding to it the time taken for the driver to perceive, hesitate and react, along with real-life road and car conditions, it's even more than that.
    • In real life conditions, the human pumping will not give better control, since the weight is being shifted forward and backwards constantly. Additionally, it will not necessarily be sufficient in keeping the front wheels rolling. Therefore, as you turn the wheel, the car might either keep on rolling dead ahead, and will stop even further away, or it will turn spin and swerve, potentially hitting the object with the side, proving fatal to both you and the object.
    • Also, pumping will not necessarily help to warn the driver behind. If he will not notice your tires smoke and screech, will he notice your brake lights flashing?
    • If you are pumping in a manual car, what do you do with the gears and clutch? If you don't de-clutch, your engine might fail, and hence steering will be lost. If you do, you might lose engine braking during the intervals when you are off of the brakes (the same happens in automatics), or alternatively lock the driving wheels constantly, risking lost of steer-ability and control.
    • Pumping will not save wear of mechanical components, will not help keeping the brakes either cool or dry.

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Categories: Defensive Driving Skills & Safety