Let’s take a look at what’s happening when a vehicle is skidding and hydroplaning (also called aquaplaning) on wet roadways and how you can prevent hydroplaning from happening to you.
When a car hydroplanes, the vehicle tires experience a loss of traction with the road and skid over the surface of the water. While most vehicles are equipped with traction control and anti-lock brakes to help keep your car from veering off the road and help you regain traction if hydroplaning occurs, it's still a scary situation that you should try to avoid. That's why it's best to keep clear if water depth builds up on the road surface causing puddles.
While it might seem like common sense to avoid driving through heavy rain or deep puddles of standing water caused by poor drainage, even small amounts of wet pavement on the street can cause a vehicle's tires to skid and the vehicle to hydroplane. This type of traction loss can temporarily keep you from steering or braking.
Prevent hydroplaning by reducing your speed if it’s raining or has recently rained. It doesn't have to be pouring outside for hydroplaning to happen. Vehicle speed and road surface conditions are the major factors in hydroplaning. Make sure all your vehicle movements (including braking and accelerating) are gradual and careful in wet weather. We also recommend avoiding cruise control when the roads are wet -- it can make a hydroplane a lot more dangerous. This is the best way to avoid skidding whether the roads are wet or not.
If you feel a loss of control and your vehicle starts to hydroplane, try not to panic. Keep your hands on the wheel and steer into the direction of the skid while applying gradual pressure to your brakes until your vehicle slows enough for you to regain control. Slamming on the brake pedal will only make the skidding worse and could result in the loss of directional control. Again, do NOT rely on quick braking if hydroplaning happens. Your wheels won't stop they'll just slide. Avoid jerking the wheel dramatically in the opposite direction. Just keep steering and try to brake gently. Soon, you will feel your vehicle regain traction and stop sliding.
While hydroplaning is always a possibility on wet roads, you can lower your chances by making sure your tires have good tread. Tread is made up of the rubber parts of the tire that actually make contact with the pavement. The tread design and the hollow grooves in tires work together to channel water away from the tire to reduce and avoid hydroplaning. As your tires get older, the rubber wears down and the tire tread depth gets more shallow. This can cause the tires to become less effective at preventing skids. You should measure your tire tread once in a while and replace old tires when necessary. It's also helpful to keep the right level of air pressure and to check the tire pressure in your tires regularly.
Knowing how to control emergency situations like hydroplaning is one of the most important aspects of defensive driving. The general rule of thumb is to slow down when you're driving on wet surfaces, you're at the highest risk of hydroplaning when you're accelerating. So there you have it, some hydroplaning basics for driving in wet conditions. Be safe out there!
Make sure to check out the rest of our safe driving videos for more defensive driving tips to keep you in control on the road! Defensive driving is safe driving.