4 ways to overcome red-light, slick-hill panic

red light on a hillby Sharlyn Petit
There’s a particular hill on my daily commute that gets my heart pumping and in panic mode. Why? It’s slick and steep, with a perfectly positioned stoplight at the crest that more often than not is red on my approach.

Either I’m first at the stoplight (and the first to potentially spin my wheels into a slide), or I’m one of the unlucky ones stopped on the steeper section hoping that the cars in front of me gain enough traction to make it through.

If you’re a new driver, recovering from this anxiety could leave you mapping out alternate flat routes or abandoning your car at the bottom of the hill (which I’ve done before on a snowy day).

Here are some of my tried-and-true tactics for getting up my red-light hill on a rainy Seattle day:

  1. Keep calm if your wheels spin. This seems obvious, but it’s important. If you start to slide on an incline, don’t panic or twist the steering wheel abruptly. Gently turn your wheels in the direction of the slide and take your time coming out of it. Keep your foot steady on the gas and avoid slamming on the brakes if possible; it’s harder to gain traction after braking.

  2. Give the cars in front of you space. Just like while driving on wet roads, give extra space to the cars in front of you when you’re stopped on a hill. I give almost a full car length to account for standard transmission cars (and clumsy clutch skills), bald tires, and panicky drivers.

  3. holding steering wheel on hillCar in front of you starts spinning? Find an opening to go around. Use the shoulder or extra lane to maneuver around the spinner, but not when his or her car is out of control. Wait for when it’s clear and the other car is completely stopped. Keep in mind this may require cars behind you to cooperate and back up. Refer again to tip No.1.

  4. How to avoid spinning altogether? First, try not to stop on a hill. If you’re at the bottom of the hill and see the light turn red, ascend slowly and steadily to maintain traction and momentum. If you time it right, the light will turn green by the time you get to the top. Second, check the tread, inflation, and rotation of your tires regularly to ensure good grip and stability.

     Check out our Top 10 ways to boost safety on rain-slick roads for more tips.

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