Driving on ice in Paignton, England

Filmed by neighbors who asked them not to attempt driving out on their iced-over suburban street, this pair somehow turn their predicament from "deductible" to "Darwin Award" near-miss in record time. [via Arbroath] Update: now with Bolero.


  1. Why did they bail out? Is there a busy street around the corner? The car is going to either bump into something and come to rest or slide to where there is some traction.

  2. Having never been in that situation — where the car is accelerating under the force of gravity alone — I’m not sure what I would do. However, I think once I realized that the car was simply sliding, I might try giving it some gas.

    1. I’ve been in that situation – I came to a complete stop at the top of a very small hill. A gust of wind hit the car and pushed it on down, sideways. I basically just froze, hands on the wheel, foot still on the brake, and said “well, here goes nothing!” The car slid down the hill and stopped, just like you’d expect. Fortunately there was no cross traffic at the bottom and I drove off.

      At no point did unfastening my seatbelt and stepping out of the car as it was moving cross my mind.

      1. I’ve been in that situation

        So have I, but without the car. I slid three blocks down Beacon Hill on my ass.

  3. I’ve seen this before on other “Car sliding on ice” videos and it baffles me every time. You are in a large metal box that is sliding unpredictably and uncontrollably on a slick surface, why would you want to be *outside* the metal box under those circumstances?

    This person nearly get their foot smashed:

    This one has two different people try it, one of which falls out of the car and is nearly run over by the next car:

  4. Yeah… bailing from the car is probably the dumbest thing you can do. Your car is pretty damn safe. Nothing is going to harm you at all in a sliding car except another car that is speeding at least 50+ kph. Even then, you are chances would still be pretty damn good even if you ran into a steam of cars doing 100 kph.

    More importantly, if you bail, YOU are going to go where ever the car goes. The only difference is that you will be sliding along with a multi ton box in your natural squishy outer layer. A car doesn’t need to be going 50 kph to crush and kill a squishy human.

  5. I second the idea of ejection seats. That would be a fine example of British engineering.

    Also, a system by which to deposit Calcium Chloride onto public thoroughfares over the course of several hours in order to increase traction and melt ice… I shall call it… the Salt Truck! (or Salt Lorry)

    1. Hmmm, I’m thinking that you want a salt that is likely to be pretty gritty for enhanced traction…

      With maybe a specialised hopper and spinning distribution device on the back to spread the salt across the road behind the lorry as it makes progress…

      Why not call the lorry a Gritter?

  6. That is the most moronic response to sliding on ice that I have ever seen. That person should have their license taken away.

  7. You should only bail if the car is clearly headed for a cliff, and even then you don’t slide out on your ass, you climb on top of the car and dive off while screaming, in slo-mo if possible.

    Actually since these folks probably only get freezing rain once or twice a century I’m going to cut them a break on bailing protocol.

  8. Bolero is perfect. “Yakkety Sax” is the traditional soundtrack for snafus, but Bolero has the smooth inexorable buildup of a car sliding downhill on a sheet of ice.

    I don’t find it mysterious that the couple got out of their car. I’ll bet they were going to try to push it. Their brakes and steering were completely unresponsive, so pushing the car would be the only other thing they could think of to do.

    I’ll also bet that neither one of them has what you might call an instinctive grasp of physics; but if they did, they wouldn’t have been trying to drive their car on a frictionless inclined plane in the first place.

  9. “More importantly, if you bail, YOU are going to go where ever the car goes. ”

    Might as well ride a motorcycle.

    Rule one of falling of a motorcycle: Try to arrange things so that you are following the bike so that it doesn’t hit you when you eventually run into something that stops you.

    Rule two of falling of a motorcycle: Don’t try to stand up until you have stopped moving.

    1. “falling of a motorcycle”
      aught to be “falling off of a motorcycle”
      or maybe “felling of a motorcycle”
      Too much glug last night or not enough coffee this morning?

    2. The one time I went down at speed, I popped back up onto my feet and slid to a stop next to my bike and had two tiny scrapes instead of extensive road rash. You can keep rule two.

  10. not to mention that holy christ — if you can’t walk on it, what possesses one to think you could DRIVE on it? And you’re inside a steel cage that will protect you against quite a bit of damage…but yet you choose to deposit yourself alongside a moving object in an uncontrolled slide? This has eight kinds of stupid spraypainted all over it…and if there’s any kind of order to the universe, their car is out of commission until warm weather returns, so no one can be endangered by their particular brand of functioning without identifiable brain function. One can only hope.

  11. I wonder if their departure was for legal reasons. Maybe they thought the “Well, I left it parked at the top of the hill with the safety brake on and it went down on its own” defense was better than being the driver behind the wheel during an accident. The physics of bailing reminds me a little of jumping up in a falling elevator right when you’re about to reach the bottom.

    Actually the 007 thing to do would be to either shoot out your own wheels (or have conveniently placed assassins with poor aim do it for you) so you can ride on rims that cut through the ice and give you some traction, or else just hit the “hovercraft” button.

  12. Rule #1 of dropping a bike is DON’T.

    Rule #2: If you’ve broken Rule #1, then you have to get out from under it. 400 pounds of bike on top of you is not healthy.

    And if you lock a front wheel, release the brake and let it regain traction. If you lock a rear wheel, do NOT release the brake under any circumstances; let the bike skid.

    If you love something, let it go.
    If it doesn’t come back, it wasn’t meant to be.
    If it does come back, you highsided it.

  13. just a reminder that this was in the UK so the women we saw towards the camera was the passenger.

    If I was driving I would never bail out myself, but not sure what I would do if I was the passenger, and the driver signaled his intention to step out and then proceeded to do so leaving me in a pilotless sliding car..

  14. I’ve been stuck maybe a half dozen times in similar situations – around here they have big fat curbs though, so usually I just jam the wheel to the right and hope I run into the curb. Usually works, sometimes the car needs wheel alignment afterwards.

    The worst is trying to get around in the winter with a light RWD pick up truck. Whee!

  15. This would not have happened if the driver wouldn’t have blocked the wheels. I know that first time in a extreme situation like that it could be complicated to realize that while braking you need to let go of brakes to steer the car.

  16. I’m shocked, neigh, appalled that British dimwits managed to do this on camera before some mouth-breather here in Detroit did.

      1. Granted, but no one ever has a buddy with damned video camera trained on them. We get ice storms like twice a year, yet no one locally has availed themselves of the opportunity to produce YouTube gold. It’s shameful. We *can* do better.

  17. Letting off the brakes would have helped.

    Tires have a fixed amount of traction they can provide. If you’re using 100% of the available traction to brake, you have nothing left for steering or acceleration. Using everything for steering.. you got no brakes or acceleration. And so on. Also worthy of note is that a sliding tire has effectively zero traction.

    If you watch the wheels carefully, they lock up the front tires pretty early on. Then dude cranks on the handbrake and locks up the rear wheels. The wheels stay locked until the doors open.. at which point the driver lifts off the brakes and tries to escape. Handbrake stays engaged, because the rear tires never start rolling again.

    Which results in the next development.. once the front tires start spinning again, they recover a tiny amount of grip. The back tires are still sliding, so the car starts to spin. Eventually the car ends ass forward because the front tires are actually able to hold on to the ice, and are producing some amount of drag.

    It’s a pretty comical illustration of the effects of oversteer.

    Once they got over the hill there is no way they could avoid a wreck, but with a bit of education they might have been able to ditch the car someplace safe, like the hedge in the background.

    1. xzzy and others in the “ease the brakes” school —
      there are a couple of degrees of slipperiness that reduce your usually analog brake system to an on-off option. That, and the fact that the slope here seems to be enough to slide the car any which way, would make whatever minor control you could establish with careful braking rather a moot point.

      I hit a stretch of black ice covered with powdered snow once. The brakes did absolutely nothing. Trying to steer off the road did absolutely nothing. We stared at the approaching curve in slow motion fascination, slid 300m, and threw a trail of sparks off an exit lane rail that handily slowed us down and reoriented us straight toward our destination.
      Good thing we were doing ~30 kph at the time. I drove slower the rest of the trip.

  18. Anonymous here, reminding you that as long as the wheels are locked by your heavy food on the brake you will not be able to steer the car.

    It is much improved by letting your wheels rotate (anti-lock brakes anyone?), and I have always found it best to let them roll, whilst at the same time steering towards something, anything, that will stop the car. An hedgerow, a parked car, even a sturdy bike rack will do. I’d take an embarrassing slow stop and a laugh with my insurance agent over whatever awaits me a the bottom of the hill.

  19. That’s proper black ice. Cold rain falling on a below zero surface freezes into a very smooth, virtually invisible sheet of ice. Just the slight sheen gives it away.

    Once you’re on that stuff there’s pretty little you can do, locked wheels or not.

  20. As Bsdnazz mentions, this is proper black ice. I’m sending this around to friends who aren’t from the North so they can understand why I laugh at them when it’s a little slippery out, and they call it black ice.
    Also reminds me of this:

  21. Paignton is hilly… I have the distinct impression they bailed because they saw that things were about to go downhill rapidly… ;)

  22. What went through their minds at first was “we are in a very slow slide, lets get out and try and stop it by sheer strength”, unfortunately as everyone knows car accidents happen in slow motion so their brains where unable to process that it was a bad plan that was no longer going to work.

  23. We’ve recently had an uncommon amount of snow (for the south of England) and because it happens so rarely nobody is prepared for it.

    However, it still surprises me how many people still seem to think that the best way to get moving on packed snow-ice is to spin your wheels as fast as you can.

  24. Anonymous #31-…heavy food on the brake… Yeah, bangers and mash will do that.. But really if the car was sliding at that slow speed and the small amount of slope a tha top, unloading the wheels are unlikely to do any good.

  25. Problem is, most UK councils don’t grit the side roads so you;re pretty much left to your own devices (which typically means the more community minded shovelling out grit from … wait for it … ‘grit bins’, if any such are available).
    But still, bailing out like this is not only dangerous to self (from seatbelts and airbags to falling under the wheel) its also irresponsible, given the chance of picking up traction and steering away from parked cars/buildings/small children.

  26. My parents lives in Newton Abbot, just up the road from Paignton. They had this sheet ice there too and on Christmas Eve my mum took two steps out the front-door, fell over and broke her arm. She’s back at the hospital now, getting another x-ray.

  27. What a couple of twatts.. as if a car sliding out of control wasn’t dangerous enough, it became unmanned and sliding out of control with it’s doors open. Also, if the car had bumped into anything whilst they had any limbs out they could have sustained immediate serious injury.


  28. I was in Manchester some years back. Drove up a ramp in a shopping centre, behind about two other cars. The first car stalled right at the top and we all stopped. I had two cars behind me.

    This was when the fun started. I could feel my car start to slowly slide backwards and applied acceleration…as did all the others in front…BUT…it didn’t work. We all slowly slide backwards down the ramp, gently bumping each other in slow motion until we ended up in the road at the bottom.

    Fortunately no other cars came careening around the corner and so we all were able to drive back up the ramp, one at a time :)

  29. It seems that they were planning to bail in advance. How can two people who are presumably panicked come up with this idea simultaneously, while having a video camera filming no less?

  30. to be semi fair to the stupid drivers, in that vid you can see what appears to be a water pump on the left hand side of the video.

  31. How come only one of the commenters here have mentioned studded tires? That is the only way of avoiding this happening in the first place.
    Four wheel drive for snow and studded tires for ice.

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