Hydroplaning: Causes, Reactions, and Avoidance

Vehicle drives through a large amount of water on the road, risking hydroplaning.Imagine driving down the highway, listening to your favorite song, and suddenly you feel as if you’ve lost control. Your car starts gliding on a layer of water covering the road and you must react quickly. This is hydroplaning—an experience that every driver fears but should be equipped to handle. Today, we’ll go over what it is, how you should react in this situation, and what you can do as a driver to avoid it.

What is Hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning occurs when the tires on your vehicle lose substantial grip on the surface of the road and instead catch a film of water sitting on top. This drastically reduces a driver’s ability to control their car—including steering and braking.

Causes of Hydroplaning

The most common causes include:

  • Road ConditionsAs water depth on a road worsens, the risk of hydroplaning increases. How quickly the rain is falling, the type of road surface, and drainage systems all affect your chances of encountering this situation.
  • Vehicle Weight – Heavier vehicles have a decreased risk compared to lighter ones because there is more force to displace water from under the tire.
  • Vehicle Speed – The time your tires need to force water between their treads and the road surface depends on the speed you are traveling. The faster you go, the less time your car has to evacuate the water.

Steps to Take if Your Vehicle Starts Hydroplaning

There are several things you could do to help gain back control of your emotions and vehicle, but here are four you can do immediately.

  1. Keep a clear head & use situational awareness. Panicking will only make matters worse and affect your reactionary abilities. Look out for other drivers, keep your eyes on the road, and maintain your composure.
  2. Don’t slam on the brakes. Although a knee-jerk reaction may be to hit the brakes as hard as possible, it will only make matters worse. Instead, take your foot off the gas and let your vehicle slow down gradually on its own.
  3. Steady the steering wheel. Trying to turn the wheel out of hydroplane skid could result in further loss of traction and control. Instead, grip your steering wheel firmly and prevent as much movement as possible.
  4. Avoid coming to a complete stop after regaining control. After hydroplaning, you may feel inclined to stop driving. In order to avoid potential accidents with other motorists (who may also be dealing with this issue), you should pull safely onto the shoulder or completely off the road.

How to Avoid Hydroplaning

Before you even find yourself in this situation, there are things you can do to be a safe and proactive driver.

  • Check your tire tread depth. The condition of your vehicle’s tires plays a significant role when it comes to driving in these conditions. Realizing your worn-down tires need replacing may save you from a potentially scary situation.
  • Slow down. If you notice the roads are wet or you see standing water, slow down by at least 5-10 mph or more.
  • Maintain a safe distance. Even without hydroplaning, stopping distances increase drastically in the rain. Track the vehicles in front of you and increase your following distance to 3-4 seconds or more than you normally would.

Hydroplaning can be extremely scary. However, by knowing how to recognize and avoid it, and by having the proper car insurance, you can rest assured knowing you’re prepared to face whatever comes your way while driving. If you’re looking for the best auto insurance coverage options, contact TJ Woods today.