How to Handle Hydroplaning...

Winston-Salem, NC 5/7/2014

Spring means that beyond the usual distractions, there’s another road risk: heavy rains. Dangerous driving conditions aren’t exclusive to winter weather phenomena like snow and black ice. If you underestimate the danger of driving in heavy rain, you expose yourself and your car to a possible accident. That’s because heavy rain storms not only limit your visibility—they also hamper vehicle traction and can cause your car to hydroplane.
 
Hydroplaning is especially common in these rainy spring months. It’s a scary situation, because like black ice, you no longer have control behind the wheel. Research actually shows that more than 12 percent of car accidents involve wet pavement conditions.
If you don’t know how to handle hydroplaning, this series will give you information on how to stay safe on wet roads. You might have heard some tips before–but there’s a good chance you never considered some of them. (For instance, did you know your tires play a major role in how you handle hydroplaning?)
Here’s what we’ll cover in this series:
  • What is hydroplaning? You’ll learn not only what hydroplaning is, but why it occurs and when it is most likely to happen.
  • How can I prevent my car from hydroplaning? Learn some simple safety checks worth doing before you head out on the road. Also learn what dangers to watch for during your drive so you stop a problem before it starts.
  • How should I drive in heavy rain? Downpours present real dangers. Learn what you can do to avoid hydroplaning, improve your visibility and reach your destination safely.
  • What should I do if I start hydroplaning? Sometimes even the most careful drivers still end up hydroplaning. Learn how to recover when your car loses contact with the road.
Are you ready to find answers to these questions? Then let’s get started. 
 
It starts like a scary story, with a dark and stormy night. You’re headed home when suddenly you lose control of your vehicle and slide across one lane, two lanes or more before you end up on the shoulder. Though rain pelts your windshield, you feel as though you just drove on ice. In reality, you have just hydroplaned.
 
So what is hydroplaning? In short, hydroplaning – sometimes called aquaplaning – occurs when the tires of your vehicle lose contact with the road beneath them in wet or rainy conditions. This most commonly occurs during heavy rain storms when water is pooling on the roads faster than it can drain. Vehicles traveling on wet roads at speeds too fast for the wet conditions can fall victim to hydroplaning.
 
Why does hydroplaning happen?
 
As you travel on a wet road, your car’s tire treads are responsible for clearing water away from the road in order to maintain traction. When your vehicle is moving faster than the tires can remove the water, pressure forces water beneath the tires. This prevents the tires from gaining traction. Once your tires lose their grip on the road, your car is vulnerable to hydroplaning.
 
Any wet road surface can present a hydroplaning danger, but the first 10 minutes after it rains are the most treacherous. During this time, rain mixes with the oil residue on the road, creating a slippery mixture that increases the risk of hydroplaning.
 
Hydroplaning doesn’t mean you can’t drive in wet conditions. It should, however, motivate you to recognize potential dangers and to act accordingly. Learn some simple steps you can take to prevent hydroplaning in the the next post from ISU Wilson Insurance.  In the interim, please contact our agency if you have further questions.
 
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