Car Talk Goes to Skid School

Forget car lengths. Leave three seconds.

Your Driver Ed instructors lied to you when they told you that the correct distance between cars is measured by car lengths. The old rule was to leave a space of one car length for every 10 mph between you and the car ahead of you.

Why is this wrong? Because this strategy only works up to 30 mph. When you're driving faster than 30 mph, this technique doesn't leave enough reaction time.

At higher speeds, you should leave at least three seconds between cars. Find a landmark on the road; then count the time between when the car in front of you passes it and when you pass it. Leave four seconds between cars in inclement weather. In freezing rain, stay home.

With ABS, it's okay to brake hard and steer.

A lot of people think that it's not okay to brake hard and then swerve, but that's not the case in a car with antilock, or ABS, brakes. If you need to avoid an accident, it's perfectly okay to brake hard, then steer - in that order.

Put your hands down.

Your Driver's Ed instructor lied again. Instead of keeping your hands at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions, place them on either side of the wheel, in the 9 and 3 positions, with your thumbs on the inside of the steering wheel. You'll have more turning range and you will not lose valuable time by having to change your hand position.

Avoid a nasalectomy.

Never rest anything on top of the airbag in your car. If you get in an accident and the airbag is activated, it will fly across the car and emboss itself in your forehead.

Look ahead... way, way ahead.

Train your eyes to fall farther ahead on the road so that you have a greater reaction time in case of an accident.

ABS light on? Get it fixed.

If the ABS light on the car's dash comes on, it means that the antilock portion of your brakes is not functioning and the car will handle like a non-ABS car. Take the car to the dealer to find out what's wrong.