Stay cool with black ice
Drivers need to stay calm when they unexpectedly hit a patch of black ice. Klaus Heimerl recommends bringing the car to a stop in a safe location as soon as possible: “If you have ABS, it’s okay to slam on the brakes. Without ABS, you’ll need a finer touch. Brake softly, but fully, until the car comes to a stop. Then it’s best to wait until the salt trucks come through.”
Regaining control when the car skids
Here’s what you need to know when the front or back tyres lose traction. Klaus Heimerl: “When you lose traction on the front tyres, the car will generally skid toward the outer edge of a curve. Don’t try to correct that with hard steering. Just ease up on the accelerator, and then you can steer gently if needed.” It’s a little harder to regain control when the back tyres lose traction. “If your rear end starts to swing out on a curve, you have to react extremely fast. Release the accelerator completely, hit your clutch and countersteer.”
Don’t get wet when aquaplaning
Cars with wide tyres are particularly prone to aquaplaning. “If the DSC (ESP) reacts to a wet street while driving, consider that as your first warning sign,” says Klaus Heimerl. “If the steering wheel suddenly feels loose, and you clearly hear the sound of water below, then your tyres have probably lost contact to the street. Don’t brake or hit the accelerator. Hit the clutch and let the car roll. The tyres will normally regain contact within 20 to 30 metres.”
Hard braking for animals
The question is as old as driving itself: when animals cross your path, do you brake or swerve? The answer is clear. If it is impossible to avoid a collision, the only thing to do is to brake as hard as you can. Do not even think about swerving to avoid the animal – that most likely ends in a deadly collision against a tree or, worse, oncoming traffic,” says Heimerl.
Stay in control when the brakes give out
“Can the brakes fail? Yes. That’s possible,” says Klaus Heimerl. “But that normally only happens in the movies.” If it happens anyway, the safe driving tip would be to continue hitting the brakes: “in a continuous pumping motion, all the way to the floor. You should also take advantage of engine braking by downshifting. The parking brake can also help, but be careful not to lock the tyres.”
Take a deep breath if a tyre pops
Luckily, tyres don’t pop that often. “But even if it does happen, there’s generally no need to panic,” confirms the legendary driving instructor. Even with just three undamaged tyres, drivers will be able to maintain control thanks to run-flat technology. His recommendation for maximum driver safety is to “take a deep breath, hold on to the steering wheel and either brake gently or let the car coast to a stop. If there is a mechanic in the area, with run-flats you can also drive there slowly for a tyre change. Otherwise, remember to turn on your hazard lights, put up a warning triangle and call for roadside assistance.”
The best thing to do is to practice with an experienced instructor. I could recommend a really nice one.
On the street, practice pays
“Of course, theory is helpful, but it’s only the first step to safe driving,” says Klaus Heimerl. “You will only stay cool in difficult situations if you really know how to put your knowledge to practical use.” And, with a smile, he adds: “The best thing to do is to practice with an experienced instructor. I could recommend a really nice one.”