December 17, 2009

The other week, Madison got a ridiculous amount of snow. It was the first true snow of the year, and it was a big one. We ended up with over a foot from just one storm. UW Madison even canceled classes and most people didn’t make it into work.

Anyways, it started snowing late afternoon on Tuesday. Just about the time everyone starts to drive home from work. I was scheduled to give blood, since I had missed my work’s blood drive the last week and wanted to donate before I went out of town. So I took the highway because it would be faster. Worst decision ever. As soon as I made the turn to go toward the highway rather than more normal route, I felt like it would be a bad idea. Should’ve just turned around.

I made it about halfway home, which is less than halfway to the blood donation center. It was snowing quite hard. I’m not a very speedy driver to begin with, so I wasn’t going all that fast. But while I was driving I noticed I was getting suspiciously close to the edge of the left lane – just a little bit over it. I moved to correct it and get solidly back in my lane. But I started sliding. You know how they always tell to turn into the skid? Well, I actually remembered that advice, but way overcompensated, causing me to go sliding in the other direction. And once that started happening, I feel like there’s so many other things on your mind that it’s quite hard to focus on which way your back wheels are sliding and which way you should turn the steering wheel. Just my opinion.

Lucky for me, there weren’t other cars around. Also lucky for me, there aren’t many trees right off the highway. I ended up sliding off the road and into the ditch next too it. No damage to me and no damage to my car. Overall, not terrible for my first time going off the road. Sadly, I was too far in and my little car couldn’t just drive myself out again. I had no idea what to do, so I did what I always do – called the boyfriend. He didn’t answer, but probably couldn’t have helped if he did. I called my housemate next, since he had gotten in an accident last year and he had to know who I should call.

He told me to call insurance and I did. I felt bad because I must have sounded like a wreck. Amazingly, I wasn’t crying – probably because I was too shook up to even think about that. But definitely could not stop my hands from shaking. The Geico lady was super nice to me, which really calmed me down. And the tow truck was on its way. Additionally, a very nice man pulled over and trudged out to my car to make sure I was ok, make sure I had a cell phone with enough battery and to see if I wanted him to wait with me. Also, the police stopped to check on me too (they were out because so many people were going off the road) and I learned that I can also call them, which never would have occurred to me.

Beyond being paranoid now about losing control of my car and being upset about missing my blood donation appointment, I definitely came out better. For a first accident, not having any damage to anything (car, me, anyone else) is definitely the best I could hope for.



  1. Glad you made it out of that ok, it could have been pretty bad.

    Out of curiosity, when they say turn into the skid, what do they mean, exactly? You were turning your wheel right when you started skidding, so which direction did you turn after that?

    • If I remember correctly, the idea is that when you’re skidding, your car is moving in a direction not aligned with your wheels. So you want to realign your wheel into the direction you’re sliding, and accelerate/release your brakes so that your wheels can speed up and gain traction again.

      I’m a little confused too though. The whole point of turning into the skid is so that you don’t overcompensate and start sliding in the other direction. I’m not quite sure how that could happen without actually turning your wheel against the skid.

      Glad you didn’t get hurt though.

      • Ah in doing more research, the idea of “turning into a skid” is confusing to everyone. I think it really means turning the opposite direction that you want to be going, which is what I didn’t do. However, this presents a large risk of going out of your lane and running into other traffic. And yes, it helps to accelerate when you turn into a skid, which is also counterintuitive as most people are trying to break. It seems that turning to stay on the road works just fine and is more intuitive, but you’ll have to turn back and forth a couple times (and work hard not to steer too much). And when you do that, you shouldn’t accelerate or break.

    • I took a driving course that involved throwing the car into controlled skids. It’s very, very hard to react fast enough to keep the car from spinning out.

  2. My best advice is next time it snows go on a road with no one on it and do a controlled skid. Then if it happens for real you know what to do. I would be glad to go with you and try to get your car into a controlled skid, trust me it is a lot of fun.

  3. ahhh don’t be upset that you missed your donation appointment. They’ll poke around and can’t find a vein and actually damage you a little. :p

    The car guys (on public radio) always advise people to find an empty parking lot and practice skidding a bit, to get the feel of their car w.r.t snow condition. It’s pretty fun actually.

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