Hydroplaning refers to when a car’s tires skid or slide across a wet surface, often during the first 10 minutes of light rain. The loss of control occurs when a tire encounters more water than it can disperse, so water is then pushed underneath the tire causing it to separate from the road and lose traction. This can result in the loss of breaking, steering, and power control.
Hydroplaning can be a terrifying experience and one that we all hope to avoid. Here are the top 5 conditions that lead to hydroplaning accidents:
1. Water on Roadway
This is obviously number one. Hydroplaning accidents cannot occur without water, and most of these types of accidents occur during the first 10 minutes of light rain. During this time, the oil residue from our vehicles mixes with the wet surface and creates slippery conditions. Be extra cautious during the first few minutes after rain begins and try to avoid traveling at speeds more than 35mph.
2. Tire Neglect
Both inadequate tire tread depth and under-inflated tires can increase your risk of hydroplaning. Always be sure to keep your tires properly inflated, as well as rotate and replace tires when necessary. The best way to self-check your tread outside of routine maintenance is a to use a US penny. Insert the penny with Abraham Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tread depth is less than the recommended 2/32 inch and it is highly recommended to replace them immediately.
3. Vehicle Speed
The faster you drive, the harder it becomes for your tires to disperse all the water and the higher your chance becomes of hydroplaning. Be sure to slow down when it begins raining, turn off cruise control, drive in a lower gear and try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you. Following these basic precautions will greatly decrease your chances of hydroplaning.
4. Depth of Water on Roadway
Hydroplaning becomes a greater threat when there is standing water on the road. Be sure to stay away from puddles and avoid driving in outer lanes where water tends to accumulate.
5. Driver Error
Many times, when a car starts to slide, the driver will over-correct and end up making the situation worse. If you feel your car start to lose control, do not aggressively apply brake pressure. Instead, try to stay calm, ease your foot off the gas, do not press and with both hands on the steering wheel, steer the car in the direction you want to go. Try not to make any quick or sharp turns. Let gravity do its job, wait for the skid to stop, and continue driving safely.
Hopefully, you will never be in the situation where you need to remember these tips, but it is always good to understand the causes behind why hydroplaning accidents happen and the steps you can take to prevent them.