In Bellingham, WA, we can get a lot of rain. Wet roadways present some driving hazards that can catch drivers off guard, especially hydroplaning. Hydroplaning means a loss of traction and sliding on a film of water. Wet road surfaces can cause tires to hydroplane. This could result in the loss of control and steering ability, as your tires may lose contact with the pavement. It's a scary feeling to suddenly feel your car hydroplaning, but here are some things you can do to recover quickly.
First and foremost, remain calm. Avoid braking or accelerating suddenly. Since hydroplaning is a loss of traction to the front tires, sudden braking slows the front tires, but locks the rear tires. This may result in a spin-out, and that's why hydroplaning can be so dangerous. Also, sudden acceleration during hydroplaning could pull the vehicle straight ahead. That could be dangerous if you're pointed towards the edge of the roadway, or another car, and you won't be able to steer away from any obstacles.
Next, you will need to either maintain your speed or gently ease off the accelerator, depending on what kind of vehicle you are in.
- If your vehicle is front wheel drive, with or without ABS and traction control, OR a rear wheel drive with ABS and traction control, stay lightly on the accelerator and steer gently towards a safe direction.
- If your vehicle is a rare wheel drive without ABS and traction control, then ease off the accelerator, and steer gently in a safe direction.
Regardless of what kind of vehicle you are in, make sure to maintain plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Increasing that distance in rainy conditions allows you more time to react to potential problems. A good way to test if you're leaving enough of a gap is to pick a landmark, such as a road sign, that the car in front of you passes, and count the number of seconds it takes for you to pass the same landmark. Under average freeway driving conditions, a safe count is five seconds. Under rainy conditions, it should be at least eight.
Another important thing to keep in mind while driving on the highway in the rain - do NOT engage cruise control. The risk is that the car will recognize the build up of water in the tires as a slow down, and will use more power to maintain speed. This can cause the car to downshift to a lower gear, which builds up even more water under the tires. It's that water building up that can result in hydroplaning.
Make sure your tires have thick enough tread. You can test this by placing a penny upside down in your tread. If Lincoln's head is hidden, then your tread is thick enough. If his head shows, then your tread is too thin, and it's time to buy new tires.
Last but not least, slow down. Reduce your speed to about one-third of the limit during times of heavy rain and wet roads.
You can find more information on the dangers of hydroplaning from this ABC News segment.
If you or someone you love is involved in a vehicle accident, don't hesitate to contact Bill with questions about your options. He's experienced with the unique nature of distracted driving cases, and works hard to get fast, fair, and full settlements for his clients.