Before you hop in your car on a wet day, be sure you know how to avoid hydroplaning
It's a terrifying moment. You're cruising comfortably in your car, enjoying your favorite tunes when you hit a puddle. Without warning, you lose control. Your tires aren't gripping the road, and your steering wheel isn't responding. Luckily, you're experienced enough to know how to avoid hydroplaning. You take your foot off the gas and glide through those two seconds of uncertainty.
Anytime we get behind the wheel there is a possibility of road hazards. From winter weather driving conditions to the random potholes to the glare of the early morning sun, one of the most significant tasks in driving is simply avoiding obstacles. We have fair warning about some of them, like signs for construction zones or winter weather advisories. Other conditions, like black ice or water on the roadway, can sometimes come as a surprise.
As frightening as it is though, hydroplaning doesn't need to lead to panic. There is a lot you can do to keep yourself safe in wet road conditions.
How to Avoid Hydroplaning
Hydroplaning happens when a layer of water lifts your tires off the road, leaving you with neither traction nor control of your vehicle. Although that may sound dramatic, according to Tire Buyer, it only takes 1/10 of an inch of water to hydroplane. As you drive on wet roads or through a puddle, the tread on your tires channels the water out of the way so the tires can grip the road. When those grooves can't channel the water fast enough, the tire ends up on top of the water rather than on the road.
Although there are multiple factors involved, traffic engineer Dr. John C. Glennon points out that "hydroplaning can be expected for speeds above 45 mph." That doesn't mean you're in the clear if you stay below that speed. Other factors include such things as the amount of water on the road, tire pressure, tread depth, and even the texture of the pavement.
Some of those factors are out of your control, but there's still a lot you can do to avoid hydroplaning.
1. Slow down
Speed is a major factor in hydroplaning. Driving a little more slowly than usual can reduce your chances of losing control of your car. Additionally, heavy rains make it hard to see, giving you less reaction time. Slowing down gives you back some of that reaction time.
2. Take care of your tires
One of the most essential safety features of any vehicle is properly inflated tires with adequate tread. This isn't just true for wet roads; it's true in even the best driving conditions. It's also important to rotate your tires so they wear evenly.
3. Skip cruise control
Driving-tests.org recommends avoiding cruise control in wet road conditions because if you do hydroplane, "it will take additional time for you to disable the function before beginning to regain control of your vehicle."
4. Avoid puddles
If it's possible, avoid driving over puddles or areas of standing water. This might not be an option if there are other vehicles nearby or if you can't safely get around that part of the roadway. If that's the case, slow down even more to decrease the possibility of hydroplaning.
5. Drive thoughtfully
Water tends to accumulate on certain parts of any road. Because of traffic, some sections of highway lanes get worn down from heavy use. In some cases, the slope of the road leads water to puddle on one edge or the other. If you can, drive on the higher parts of the road where there isn't as much water.
You can also drive in the tire tracks of cars in front of you, taking advantage of the reduced amount of water. Just don't follow too closely.
How to Regain Control of Your Car if You Hydroplane
Despite your best efforts, you may still find yourself losing control of your vehicle due to hydroplaning. The good news is that hydroplaning usually only lasts for a second or two. The bad news is that a lot can happen in that time at 60 miles per hour.
If you do hydroplane and lose control of your vehicle, don't panic and don't slam on the brakes. Heavy braking in a skid situation will only exacerbate the problem. Likewise, don't hit the accelerator hoping to "get through it." Remember, you aren't controlling the vehicle.
Aside from that, there are three things to do when you hydroplane. Take your foot off the gas. Steer in a straight line. Wait. As soon as your tires regain contact with the road, make corrections to your direction and continue on, although maybe a bit more slowly. Pull over and take a break if you need to. No matter how experienced you are, it's a scary occurrence.
One last thing: always make sure your car has the insurance coverage you need. Even the best drivers have an occasional ding. Get in touch with your Pekin Insurance agent today to find out more about auto insurance.