While any month of the year can bring about a fair amount of precipitation, rainfall is perhaps the heaviest during the spring and summer seasons.
Wet roads are no match for motorists. Surfaces like these can affect traction, causing a motorist to lose control of their vehicle and resulting in a crash.
The concept described above is referred to as aquaplaning or perhaps more commonly as hydroplaning. There’s a certain series of events that results in this dangerous outcome, which we’ll go over in this article in hopes that it sheds light on how to prevent hydroplaning.
What Causes Hydroplaning?
Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the grooves in your tires is? These grooves help siphon away water from the raised portion of the tires (the contact patch) that actually touches the roadway.
Each manufacturer produces tires that have a capacity to disperse certain amounts of tracked water relevant to a motorist’s speed. For example, Continental Tires are manufactured to redistribute nearly eight gallons of water in a single second when a motorist is traveling at a rate of just under 50 mph.
The example above captures how a new tire should ideally perform. The more worn down a tire’s tread life becomes, the more apt it is to perform at an inferior level than it initially did. A situation may arise whereby a motorist’s tires slide upon the water instead of the road’s surface if the tires no longer redistribute the water away from the contact patch as they once did.
How Can You Tell That Your Vehicle Is Hydroplaning?
One of the earliest signs that your vehicle is hydroplaning is that you feel your vehicle starting to slide, similar to how it feels if you were sliding on ice.
You may even notice the steering wheel loosens up, almost as if it’s suddenly attempting to navigate autonomously (which is similar to what you feel when you turn on your cruise control). The tires involved (whether just the rear ones or all four) will affect your vehicle’s movement in the following ways:
- When all four wheels are hydroplaning: Automobiles tend to move straight ahead in a forward direction.
- When just the rear tires are hydroplaning: The rear end of your vehicle will move sideways into the skid.
Another sign you may pick up on that hydroplaning is in progress includes a sudden increase in your vehicle’s revolutions per minute (RPMs) and speed. These tend to go up as your vehicle’s tires spin.
What Should You Do if Your Vehicle Begins to Hydroplane?
Many car safety analysts argue that there are three primary steps that you should employ when you’re wondering how to prevent hydroplaning, including:
- Gradually ease off your accelerator
- Lightly press your brake pedal instead of slamming on it
- Steadily hold the steering wheel while attempting to navigate your vehicle in the direction your automobile is traveling in
In the case of the latter, this will aid you in realigning your car’s wheels, which will, in turn, help you better steer it. You’ll know that you’ve successfully regained control of your car when its tires feel like they’re gripping the roadway once again.
Motorists operating a manual transmission vehicle should push down the clutch so that the vehicle can gradually come to a stop itself.
How Can You Reduce Your Chances of Hydroplaning?
Some of the same techniques you should employ when driving on wet roads can also reduce your chances of hydroplaning. Those include:
Reducing Your Speed
Rain makes roadways slippery by itself. However, the addition of oils and other substances only makes matters worse.
The quicker your speed is, the less likely your tires grip the road. Also, remember that your tires’ ability to disperse water is affected, in part, by your speed. The slower you travel, the more likely it is for your tires to eliminate the water, allowing their contact patches to connect with the road.
Maintaining Your Tires
You need to regularly check your tire treads. It’s ideal for the tread depth, which is the portion of the rubber that lies between the contact patches, to be at least 2/16 of an inch deep to adequately aid with water distribution.
Ensuring that your tires have enough tread life isn’t the only type of maintenance you need to perform, though. You should also have them regularly rotated, such as every 6,000 miles. This regular rotation ensures a more even wear pattern to all tires.
Performing monthly checks of tire pressure is also key. You should ensure your tire pressure aligns with auto manufacturer recommendations for optimal performance, especially on rainy roadways.
Steering Clear of Standing Water
Tires are least likely to grip the roadway when traversing a puddle or larger accumulation of water, leaving a motorist more vulnerable to hydroplaning. The accumulation of water is generally most significant along the outermost lanes. A good rule of thumb is that the deeper the water is, the more likely a hydroplaning incident will result.
Avoiding Using Cruise Control on Wet Roads
Your vehicle’s cruise control system relies on sensors to help it regulate your speed. Those sensors don’t respond as well in rainy weather as they do under dry conditions. Instances in which motorists lose traction when this occurs are quite common.
Motorists who avoid making quick turns and stay within the tracks left behind by previous motorists also reduce their chances of hydroplaning accidents.
Information compiled by the American Safety Council suggests that the initial ten minutes following a light rain are when roads are prime for causing hydroplaning incidents.
What Dangers Does Hydroplaning Pose?
Motorists who hydroplane can expect to experience diminished control over their vehicle. This lack of steering and tire responsiveness often motivates motorists to make the wrong driving choices, including slamming on their brakes or navigating their automobiles in the wrong direction. While many motorists end up crashing into stationary objects when they do this, others collide with nearby vehicles. Baltimore crashes like these can seriously maim or kill.
What Is an Attorney’s Role in a Hydroplaning Accident?
Maryland subscribes to the at-fault insurance doctrine, meaning that you can file a claim with a negligent motorist’s insurance company following a crash. You can collect compensation to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other unexpected crash-related costs, provided you can prove the other motorist’s liability for your collision.
Our Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC attorneys know Maryland laws that apply to car crashes like yours. They are also well-equipped to prove liability, such as how a motorist apparently didn’t know how to prevent hydroplaning, for you to have a successful claim. Schedule a risk-free consultation with one of our lawyers to learn more about whether your accident warrants you taking further legal action.
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