What Is Hydroplaning and How to Prevent It
Spinning uncontrollably is the last thing you want to do while on the road. Hydroplaning is terrifying and dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, 70% of all weather-related crashes have to do with wet pavement. That’s not only when raining, but simply wet roads are associated with 76% of all crash fatalities related to weather. Most at risk for crashes and deaths are teenagers. So what exactly is hydroplaning and how can you prevent it?
What is hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning is when your vehicle’s tires takes on more water than they can handle. The water can then push in between the front tires and the ground. This thin plane of water, hydroplane, between your tires and the road causes you to loose control of the car. Breaking and steering cannot help because the tires are not on the road. In fact, any quick movement can and will make things worse.
How to prevent hydroplaning?
Preventing hydroplaning needs to address the conditions that cause it: Tires, speed, water/road conditions, and vehicle weight.
Make sure tires are well maintained, inflated and their treads thick enough. Remember, those treads are what displaces the water as you drive, preventing hydroplaning. Take a penny and stick it in a tire. If you see the head of President Lincoln sticking out, your treads may be too thin. Wider and deeper treaded tires will be more effective in displacing that water than others. If you live in a wet environment, it might be good to ask your garage about what they recommend in high quality tires.
Besides tires, speed is another factor in hydroplaning. When driving on a wet road, turn off cruise control and slow down to one third your speed normal speed. This is because tires will loose about one third of traction on a wet road. For example, if you normally would drive at 60 mph, when it rains, slow down to 20 mph. If you normally drive at 30 mph, slow down to 10 mph.
Water depth on the road and the type of road surface will also increase the risk of hydroplaning. Heavier cars will be less likely to hydroplane, but they can still do so with the right conditions and speed. Again, best bet is to just slow down.
What to do?
When you do find yourself hydroplaning, remain calm. Do not suddenly break. Do not suddenly accelerate. Gently take your foot off the gas to allow your vehicle to slow down. If you still have not gained back control, look around and find a safe spot. Slowly accelerate and slowly steer in that direction.
Hydroplaning is dangerous but taking a few steps to help prevent it could save your vehicle and life.