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Sunday / 23 June 2024
HomeFeatures4 professional driving techniques we should all know

4 professional driving techniques we should all know

Knowing how to get an out-of-control vehicle back in line, recovering from understeering and oversteering situations, and calming down a swaying trailer are vital skills to have when out on the road.

According to racing driver Hannes Scheepers: “most human handling errors on the road are caused by mistakes in coordinating brake pressure, accelerator movement, and steering angle.”

DialDirect has therefore roped in Scheepers, who is sponsored by the insurer to participate in the 2024 instalment of the VW Polo Cup, to query the professional on the most important techniques he learned on the racetrack that every driver could benefit from.

Below, he outlines four everyday scenarios in which professional techniques would come in handy for the average driver.

Losing control in an emergency

When you start to lose control of a vehicle in reaction to an emergency, or due to a change in the road surface, it’s important not to slam on the brakes.

Attempt to remain calm and gradually proceed to lift off the accelerator and counter-steer in the opposite direction than the vehicle wants to go, and once the vehicle is relatively stable, slowly start accelerating once again.

During this entire procedure, which lasts fractions of a second, it’s vital to have “soft hands” – in other words, not to make any sudden, jerking steering movements – as this could lead to even more loss of control.

Understeer

A vehicle understeers when you turn the steering wheel but it continues going straight, or doesn’t turn as much as you want it to.

When this happens, you should lower your speed into the corner by braking gently and adjusting your steering angle more gradually to make the turn. Only once it is steady again should you get back on the accelerator.

Oversteer

The opposite of understeer, oversteer is when it feels like the rear of the vehicle wants to slide to either side or pendulum around.

In this scenario you shouldn’t hit the brakes as soon as the wheels start to lose grip.

Instead, turn back your steering wheel gradually and slow down until the vehicle is under control, and then slowly accelerate out of the possible spin.

Oversteer tends to happen more frequently with rear-wheel-drive vehicles, but front-wheel and all-wheel-drive cars aren’t immune to it.

Towing a trailer or caravan

When you tow a trailer or caravan and it starts to sway, Scheepers advises that you avoid hitting the brakes unless there is an imminent risk of a collision.

Braking will worsen the situation because the towed unit will want to continue at its current speed and likely jackknife your car.

Don’t try to “steer yourself out of it”, either, because your reaction to the heavy vehicle and trailer’s behaviours is always delayed and will mostly make the sway worse.

“Rather ease off the accelerator until the unit that you’re towing stabilizes and then slowly accelerate again,” said Scheepers.

If you experienced any sort of swaying coming from the trailer or caravan, it’s better to pull over and make sure that your towing setup is correct, with good hitch height, proper weight distribution, and correctly inflated tyres, before continuing your journey.

Before setting out on the trip, it’s also recommended to ensure that your vehicle and towed unit are checked and tweaked by experts for optimum stability.

“Enemy number one is the adage that ‘it won’t happen to me’, because all too often it does, causing irreparable loss,” said Martin van Wyk, spokesperson for Dialdirect.

“We urge South African motorists to pay careful attention to these tips and to practice them, as it could very well save their lives, that of a loved one, another motorist or pedestrian. It’s also wise to have adequate, comprehensive vehicle insurance in place for when calamity strikes.”

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