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Safety & Security Committee (SSC)

How does hydroplaning occur?

According to Smart Motorist, Hydroplaning occurs when water on the roadway accumulates in front of your vehicle's tires faster than the weight of your vehicle can push it out of the way. The water pressure can cause your car to rise up and slide on top of a thin layer of water between your tires and the road. While hydroplaning your vehicle rides on top of the water, like a water skier on a lake. In less than a second, your car can completely lose contact with the road, putting you in immediate danger of sliding out of your lane. This usually happens at higher speeds, over 40 miles per hour. Try to imagine your vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on a sheet of ice: that image approximates what will happen if you try to brake or steer while hydroplaning. 

Contributing Factors

  1. Vehicle speed. As speed increases, wet traction is considerably reduced. Since hydroplaning can result in a complete loss of traction and vehicle control, you should always reduce speed, paying attention to the traffic around you.
  2. Tire tread depth. As your tires become worn, their ability to resist hydroplaning is reduced. 
  3. Water depth. The deeper the water, the sooner you will lose traction, although even thin water layers can cause a loss of traction, including at low speeds.

     

How can you tell you're hydroplaning?

It is often hard to tell when you are hydroplaning. The rear end of your vehicle may feel a little squirrelly (loose, giving you the sensation that it has moved to one side or the other), especially in a high crosswind. The steering may also suddenly feel loose or little too easy.  Watch the road ahead for standing or running water. You can also pay attention to the spray being kicked up by the cars in front. If it suddenly increases it's possible that the driver has hit a patch of water that could cause you to hydroplane.

What NOT to do if you start to hydroplane

There are two absolutely essential no-no's to remember should you experience the beginning of hydroplaning:

  1. Do not apply your brakes 
  2. Do not turn your steering wheel 

     

What to do if you start to hydroplane

If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Think of your steering wheel as the rudder of a boat (your vehicle is a boat when in the middle of a hydroplane). Hold the wheel firmly and don't steer in any other direction but straight ahead. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and your steering returns to normal. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally; the car's computer will mimic a pumping action, when necessary. If your vehicle’s tires are still in partial contact with the road surface, you should be able to regain control of the vehicle in the same way that you would on snow or ice. 

 

 

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