Getting a Grip on Hydroplaning

Not only do April showers bring May flowers, they also mean more water on the road and greater risk of hydroplaning. Anyone who has experienced it knows that hydroplaning is one of the more frightening situations that can occur while driving.

What is hydroplaning and how does it occur?

Hydroplaning occurs when water pressure causes a vehicle to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water. It is like skidding, but potentially much more hazardous. The reason hydroplaning is so dangerous is because your vehicle loses contact with the road, leaving you with little way to control it.

The tread on tires is designed to help prevent hydroplaning. The treads function to channel and disperse water and slush, away from the face of the tire. If the tread is unable to do this, the vehicle will hydroplane, and the driver will lose braking and steering control. This can happen for a number of reasons including worn tread, improper inflation, and driving at speeds that are too high for the conditions. Traveling at high speed does not give the tire enough time to push the water out of the way, as it is designed to do.

Prevention is the best defense.

The best way to avoid hydroplaning is by keeping your tires properly inflated and making sure you have adequate tire tread. Your driving habits will also help or hurt you when it comes to wet conditions. Slow down when driving in rain, snow, or slush, especially when turning or on curves. Do your best to avoid puddles or standing water in the roadway. In the case of snow,  drive in the tire tracks left by the vehicles in front of you.

If hydroplaning does ever occur, resist the urge to brake or turn suddenly. This is likely to throw your vehicle into a skid or spin. Ease your foot off the gas until the vehicle slows and you can feel the road again. If it is necessary to brake, do so with a light pumping action. Vehicles with anti-lock braking systems will automatically pump as you brake, safely and effectively.

Remember, the best way to manage hydroplaning it to do all you can to prevent it from occurring.