Weather-related crashes can worry a lot of drivers. They can cause traffic delays, slippery roads, and even ice. But there’s another risk that many drivers don’t consider: hydroplaning. Hydroplaning occurs when standing water on roadways causes a car to rest on the water rather than the roadway. When this happens, it removes the driver’s ability to maintain steering and control of the vehicle, which may result in a serious hydroplane car accident.
Melting snow or rain creates water on roadways, and hydroplaning doesn’t actually require a lot of water; it can occur even on roads that are slightly damp. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHA), approximately 21 percent of all vehicle crashes (almost 1,235,000 of 5,891,000 per year), are weather-related.
Weather-Related Car Accident
According to the FHA’s studies on weather-related crashes (looking at 10-year averages (2007 – 2016), snow/sleet accounted for 18 percent of weather-related crashes, four percent of all vehicle crashes, and two percent of all crash fatalities. Icy pavement accounts for 13 percent of weather-related crashes, three percent of all crashes, and two percent of all vehicle crashes. Finally, snow/slushy pavement accounts for 16 percent of all weather-related crashes, four percent of all vehicle crashes, and two percent of all crash fatalities.
Contributing Factors of Prevention
Though it cannot always be prevented, there are things you can do to minimize your risk of being involved in a hydroplane car accident.
- Choose High Quality Tires. It may seem like common sense, but it should still be noted that purchasing tires that are designed for the purpose of preventing hydroplaning could help to reduce your risk. Bald tires can increase your risk of losing control.
- Regularly Rotate/Balance Tires. It is recommended that you have your tires rotated and balanced once every 7,000 to 10,000 miles.
- Slow Down. You may be in a hurry to get to your destination, but reducing your speed can actually reduce your likelihood of hydroplaning. Most experts agree that hydroplaning is more likely to occur at speeds of more than 35 miles per hour, with speeds of 55 miles per hour or more becoming most dangerous.
- Avoid Puddles When Possible. Again, this may seem to be common sense, but if you can see standing water you should avoid driving over it, as your vehicle will likely hydroplane.
- Stay off of Cruise Control in the Rain. Cruise control can be convenient, but in the case of rain, it can prove detrimental. This is because it will take a longer period of time to remove your cruise control before gaining back steering of your car.
- Avoid Outer Lanes. Water tends to collect in the shoulders of the road. As such, it is safer to avoid those areas where it pools.
- Avoid Braking Hard. Breaking – and especially breaking hard – can increase your vehicle’s chance of hydroplaning, as can making quick or sharp turns. Breaking too hard can cause skidding.
- Follow the Leader. In inclement weather including snow and rain, it is advisable to drive in the tire tracks left from the cars in front of you.
What to Do When Hydroplaning
If you experience hydroplaning, there are four things to remember to avoid a hydroplane car accident:
- Take your foot off of the accelerator ASAP.
- Turn your steering in the direction that the car is hydroplaning.
- Wait until you can feel the tires re-grip the road.
- Pull over and calm down.
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