Avoid Overcorrecting Your Steering | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

My Virginia Beach-based personal injury and wrongful death law firm colleagues and I have been slowly updating the hundreds of blog posts, articles and case results on our website. One thing we’ve noticed is how so many posts repeat the same terms when describing what a negligent or reckless driver did to cause a crash.

In particular, we keep seeing “swerved,” “ran off the road,” “oversteered,” “overcorrected,” “ran across lanes” and “crossed into oncoming traffic.” All these words—and several mote synonyms I’m not listing here—indicate that a driver jerked their steering wheel and lost control of their vehicle in the moments just before becoming involved in a serious or fatal collision.

All drivers are at risk for oversteering and overcorrecting. Situations in which this can happen include running onto the shoulder or curb while passing, driving while intoxicated, leaving the road as a result of becoming distracted or falling asleep behind the wheel, needing to quickly change lanes when approaching road debris or stopped vehicles at high speed, and skidding or hydroplaning on icy or wet pavement.



Overcorrecting afflicts car drivers, commercial truck operators and motorcycle riders alike. The consequences range from slamming into a concrete barrier to sideswiping other vehicles and causing a head-on collision.

Recognize the Dangers of Oversteering

The Federal Highway Administration reported in 2011 that

Each year roadway departure crashes account for more than half of United States highway fatalities and involve a vehicle that crosses an edge line, center line, or otherwise leaves the traveled way. A majority of these fatalities pertained to three general areas: overturning, opposing direction, and trees or shrubs. Roadway departure is a significant concern for rural roadways.

The agency then goes on to note that speeding (especially through curves and on highway ramps), driver distraction, impaired driving and the lack of several safe lane and shoulder/curb design elements set the stage for what researchers call lane departures. A lane departure is exactly what it sounds like: straddling a lane line, weaving, driving onto the shoulder, driving onto the median, and crossing a center line on a two-way road or highway.

What happens when driver depart their lane is highly predictable. They panic and turn hard back toward the pavement or their proper lane. What happens to their car, truck or motorcycle is also easily understood. The vehicle heads all the way across the road, flips or hits the first thing in its way.


Know How to Repress the Instinct to Oversteer

Sooner or later, every driver encounters a situation in which oversteering will seem inevitable. Here are a handful of best practices for maintaining control.

  • Slow down on slick pavement.
  • Hold the steering wheel straight when tires start slipping on water or ice.
  • Steer into a skid before gently straightening the steering wheel.
  • Do not pump the brakes; pumping locks up anti-lock brakes, which freezes the wheels and makes steering at all ineffective.
  • Check all blind spots for an empty space to move into when swerving to avoid a crash is the only choice.
  • Allow the vehicle to go all the way off the road if one or more tires go off the edge of the shoulder.
  • Let up off the gas pedal and brake gently as the vehicle leaves the roadway.
  • Wait to calm down before reentering the flow of traffic.