Did you know that based on over ten years, the top two contributors to weather-related car crashes were wet pavement and rain?
Hydroplaning occurs during rainy conditions. Speed, insufficient tire tread, and standing water are the three factors in hydroplaning.
Hydroplaning happens when water on the road causes the tires to lose contact with the road.
Why is hydroplaning so risky? Drivers start to panic when they feel their car going out of control, and they begin to overcorrect.
Learn how you can avoid hydroplaning. We list some do’s and don’ts which will help you avoid hydroplaning and navigate you out of the experience safely.
Table of Contents
What Is Hydroplaning?
What is the definition of hydroplaning? Hydroplaning is widely used to refer to skidding or slipping a car’s tires on a slippery and wet surface.
The tread on your tires has grooves in them. Think of these as tiny canals that disperse water away from the patch where the tire meets the road surface. According to a leading tire manufacturer, modern tires can be dispersed up to 8 gallons of water per second at 50 miles per hour.
If the tire can’t move water away fast enough, the tire’s surface patch continues to travel on the water, not the road. Think of rising onto the surface of the water when waterskiing. That, in a nutshell, is hydroplaning.
The outcome of hydroplaning through the loss of steering, acceleration, and power can, in the long run, cause accidents and injuries.
How Much Water Does It Take to Hydroplane?
Hydroplaning happens on any wet road surface, but the first 10 minutes of a steady drizzle are perhaps the most hazardous.
When light rain mixes with oily residues on the road surface, it generates slippery surfaces that can force cars, particularly those driving at speeds of more than 35 mph, to aquaplane. That is a dangerous mix for drivers and the surrounding traffic.
Although speed, road surfaces, and tire wear all play a role, water depth is the main cause of hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is likely if the water builds up at a depth of one-tenth of an inch or more over at least 30 feet, and the car goes through it at least 50 miles per hour or more.
The threat of having a motor vehicle crash grows in bad weather conditions such as fog, mist, ice, and snow. However, it is not always the heavy rain and snow that is the most deadly; it is the slippery conditions that drivers are not prepared for.
How Do I Avoid Hydroplaning?
It is always a good idea to prepare for the worse. With that in mind, here are some essential tips to avoid hydroplaning:
1. Make Sure Your Tires Are Safe
Many people incorrectly assume that the tire tread is for traction on the road surface. The tire is actually is for moving water directly away from the tires.
When your tire tread reaches the minimum three millimeters mark, it’s time to look at them. If needs be, replace and rotate the tires.
Rotating tires at appropriate stages will preserve consistent wear. It will also help you get the most life out of your tires. Again, the better the tire tread, the more efficient your tires will push away water.
Remember that running your tires beyond their useful life places you and your family at risk.
2. In Wet Conditions Do Not Use Cruise Control
Cruise control is a feature used to control the car’s speed and keep it at a constant speed rate.
With speed control, the speed at which the wheels are turning is continuously being measured and sent to the cruise control that regulates the engine’s output. Under a situation such as hydroplaning, the speed sensor will measure the speed and increase or decrease it to maintain this speed.
For example, if the driver has set the cruise control at 80 miles per hour, the car will enter the hydroplaning situation and maintain that speed on wet slippery roads. The knee-jerk reaction to brake in a hydroplaning situation could affect the balance of the car. If the driver cannot safely handle this situation, this could cause a severe loss of control of the vehicle.
Wet roads significantly affect the traction of the tires. That, in turn, will make it difficult for the driver to judge and take corrective actions. Accordingly, the driver should assess the road conditions and adjust your vehicle speed suitably for the road.
3. Avoid Water Puddles
You should avoid driving on the outer sides of the road surface. That is where water is more likely to gather because of the gradient of the road.
Driving through stagnant water puddles incorrectly could cause significant damage to your vehicle, not to mention the expense it will take to be repaired.
As a result, here are some tips for driving through them:
Check The Size Of The Water Pool
You may even have to get out of the car to check if this is safe to do.
Be willing to find a different route to your destination if you are unsure how deep it is.
If the puddle is small enough to drive through, check to see if any obstacles can cause damage to your vehicle. If you drive through, you could be left high and dry in the middle of a puddle with a problem. By doing this, you can find a safe route across.
Drive Through Slowly
If you’ve checked that you can pass through the puddle, keep your car in a low gear. The second gear is generally good enough.
That will help you retain momentum as you drive across the puddle, generating a boat wave pattern, so you don’t get swamped.
Exiting The Other Side
If you get to the other side, and particularly if the puddle is deep, pause for a while if you can. Then let any surplus water drain out and flow back out onto the road.
If you can’t stop, be mindful that the amount of traction on the road ahead will be limited, as the road surface will be wet from the water flow from other traffic before you.
Then make sure that you have ample space ahead. Slowly take your foot off the accelerator until your car regains traction. Do not brake until you feel you have control of the vehicle.
4. Keep Driving at a Safe Speed
The main cause of collisions is speed. The following statistics will include you if you don’t slow down to match the road conditions.
The Highway Code specifies that stopping distances must be at least twice as long in rainy conditions because your tires will have less traction on the road surface.
Reduce speed to leave more gap between you and the car in front to account for longer braking distances. Remember the two-second following rule? Well, double it to the four-second rule when you are driving in wet conditions.
Anything above 40 miles per hour is hazardous when driving in wet conditions.
5. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
The car in front of you can help you understand the condition of the road.
Have you seen those cars that insist on driving into water puddles and end up looking like a fountain? Well, you could encounter potholes, low spots, or even backed-up water from blocked drains. Slow down and change lanes if needs be before it is too late.
Watch for other traffic that may not be as alert as you and will maybe aquaplane into you!
What Is The Sequence for Hydroplaning Recovery?
When you find yourself skidding, immediately lift your foot off the accelerator. Never use braking as a means to control the car when you are hydroplaning. If you use your brake in this manner, it can make matters worse, and you will lose complete control of your vehicle.
Although this can sound confusing, turn your steering wheel slowly towards the same direction. That will help your tires realign with the direction your vehicle is traveling in and assist you in regaining steering control.
Wait until you feel the tires regrip the asphalt surface. As the person controlling the steering wheel, you will feel when the vehicle is out of the current hydroplaning situation.
When Do You Know if You Are Hydroplaning?
When you are behind the wheel, hydroplaning feels like you are flying or floating in its own direction. That is when you know you have lost steering and braking control.
Not always are all four wheels involved in hydroplaning. Sometimes if your driving wheels, front or rear, hydroplane, there will be increased speed and engine revolutions per minute as your tires begin to spin.
If the back wheels are hydroplaning, as your car’s rear end begins to gain traction, it will skid sideways into a fishtail effect. If all four wheels hydroplane, the car will skid forward in a straight line.
Are You Supposed to Brake When Hydroplaning?
It is vital to remember not to panic when your car hydroplanes.
First, and foremost do not try to accelerate or brake suddenly. Since hydroplaning lacks traction to tires, sudden braking delays the driving tires but locks the other tires, causing spin-outs.
Rapid acceleration could also pull the car straight ahead, which might be risky if the vehicle points at the roadway’s edge.
Can You Hydroplane at Any Speed?
Under the right combination of weather conditions, hydroplaning can occur at any speed. However, it is thought that it happens at a speed of 40mph and over.
Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Always slow down and drive at a safe speed when it’s wet.
Is It Your Fault If You Hydroplane?
Overall, it is the driver’s duty to be aware of traffic conditions and change their driving actions accordingly. Driving into or shortly after heavy rainstorms, drivers are expected to predict problems such as decreased visibility, slippery pavement, and the risk of parts of road flooding.
In turn, drivers should be aware of any potential dangers. They should slow down and strive to maintain some distance between their cars and others. Drivers are responsible for retaining control of their cars and take all appropriate steps to avoid accidents.
As you’ve seen, several variables can complicate the assessment of blame in a hydroplaning-related accident. If severe injuries happen, crash investigators will devote much time and energy to the distribution of fault between the parties concerned.
Investigators gather all information, evaluate and examine the cars involved, including the road itself.
How Does Hydroplaning Affect Insurance?
Will a hydroplaning accident affect my insurance? Yes, most certainly it will.
It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. Filing a claim would almost certainly lead to a rise in the vehicle insurance premium. Luckily, a non-fault allegation won’t affect it as badly as a claim where you are found to be the guilty party.
Even if you’re not claiming for an accident, you can see a rise in your insurance payment. Why, do you ask? It’s because some insurance companies believe that even non-guilty drivers who have had an accident are more liable to be involved in another accident at a later stage.
If you are involved in a car accident, you will claim negligence against the driver and his insurance company. This claim can include damage to your vehicle, medical costs coverage, and property damage.
Some insurance companies will offer a discount or credit if you get driver training.
Skid to a Stop!
All drivers should take special precautions to avoid hydroplaning of their car.
However, if the car begins hydroplaning, follow the safety advice above to regain control of the vehicle easily. Hydroplaning can be minimized by driving at reasonable speeds according to the road surface and tire tread.
Reduce your speed during poor weather, and be mindful of any puddles on the ground.
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