It’s a warm night, just after dark. As soon as you and your child get into the car after soccer practice, it starts to rain. Five miles down the road, you experience a terrifying sensation. Your car doesn’t just feel like it’s suddenly flying—it actually is. It’s hydroplaning.
What Causes a Vehicle to Hydroplane?
As you drive on wet pavement, water collects ahead of your car’s front tires. Sometimes the tread on the tires can’t disperse the water. This causes the wheels to actually lift off the pavement, the way a waterskier skims across the water.
Hydroplaning occurs when your vehicle’s tires lose contact with the pavement on which you’re driving. Once your front wheels are no longer in contact with the ground, you no longer have the ability to steer effectively. Your car may begin to rotate sideways, out of your control.
What Are the Risks of Hydroplaning?
The resulting sudden loss of control as you slide into a skid can be extremely scary, and is in fact very dangerous.
Unfortunately, you’re always at risk for hydroplaning when on pavement that’s wet or covered with slush. And there is no way to predict with certainty when this might occur. But there are several factors that you can control to reduce your risk.
The biggest factor you can control is vehicle speed. Hydroplaning can occur at even 30 mph, but as your speed increases to 50 mph and above on a wet surface, the risk of hydroplaning increases rapidly.
How to Avoid a Hydroplaning Accident
Your initial reaction when you sense your car hydroplaning is crucial. To help prevent an accident, follow these steps:
- Gently turn your steering wheel in the direction your vehicle is sliding, to keep your front wheels pointed straight down the road.
- Don’t jam on the brakes, which would actually increase your skid.
- Ease your foot off the accelerator to slow down until you sense the tires have traction again.
- If you need to brake, do so only by tapping the brake pedal until you’ve slowed enough that you can apply more brake pressure without skidding again.
- While continuing to look ahead, steer the vehicle toward where you want to be.
You can take specific precautions to lower your risk of a hydroplaning accident:
- Drive slower in wet conditions, especially if standing water is present.
- Don’t drive with worn tires.
- Allow extra space between your car and others in wet conditions.
- Outer lanes usually collect more water, so try to stay in the inner lanes.
- Turn off cruise control when on wet roads.
- Avoid quick or sharp turns.
If, despite your precautions, you’re involved in an accident after your car hydroplanes, stay calm and contact the police. When it involves another vehicle, remain non-confrontational and exchange information. Don’t admit fault. Make sure you or anyone else who is injured receives any necessary medical care as soon as possible. If possible, take photos of the accident, all vehicles involved, and your injuries.
Avoid rushing into a settlement or even providing a statement to another party’s insurance company until you have legal representation. To find out exactly what your rights and obligations are, be sure to contact us for a free consultation.