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What’s the big deal about hydroplaning?

A driver who successfully commutes in the rain may tend to downplay the dangers of hydroplaning. In fact, you may have already experienced a few seconds of hydroplaning and come out fine on the other side. But the hazards are real, and like any dangerous road condition, can cause accidents that result in injuries and death.

What is hydroplaning? Farmers Insurance describes it as something that occurs on wet pavement when your tires lose contact with the surface of the road and travel on top of the water. You may notice that the back end of your car feels loose or moving where you are not steering, almost like fishtailing, but on a smaller scale. Situations that contribute to the likelihood of hydroplaning include:

  • The depth of water: You can still lose traction in shallow layers of water, but in general, deeper water causes loss of traction to occur sooner.
  • Tire tread: Deeper, wider treads scatter more water, so worn tires do not work as well at this task.
  • Speed: Faster speeds cause reduced traction on wet surfaces and can add to your chances of experiencing a complete loss of traction.

Recovering from hydroplaning is usually possible if you remain cool and in control. If you have a front-wheel drive or ABS on a rear-wheel drive, keep your foot light on the gas pedal and steer to an open traffic area. For those in rear-wheel drives that do not have ABS, ease off the gas and steer to an open spot. As you slow, you should regain traction.

It is also important to turn off cruise control in hydroplaning conditions as the car may send increased power to the wheels as it feels the water resistance. If cruise control causes your car to downshift, it can cause additional water buildup beneath the tires.

This article contains general information and is not intended as legal advice.

 

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