By, Richard P. Hastings, Connecticut Attorney
Due to the recent melting of snow and with the inevitable April showers bringing May flowers, there's been a lot of water on the roads, and that's not likely to change.
Given the imminent hazard this situation creates, it is a good idea for all drivers, especially teenage or inexperienced ones, to review the causes and solutions to hydroplaning as it may save you or a loved one from getting into an accident.
Hydroplaning occurs when the tires of your vehicle cannot displace water fast enough to make proper contact with road surface. The result of this condition is a loss of steering to the affected tires. If all the tires are affected, the loss of steering will be complete.
Evidence that partial hydroplaning is occurring and complete hydroplaning is imminent is a loosening of the steering response as well as a pulling of the vehicle toward the body of water.
Generally, hydroplaning is avoidable as it is caused by "driver error" and tire problems, which could potentially lead to a catastrophic accident.
The major causes of hydroplaning are:
- Speed: Hydroplaning does not generally occur at speeds of less than 50 mph, except when deep, pooled water is present. The faster a vehicle travels, the less time a tire has to displace standing water, thereby increasing the chance the car will become "waterborne" and hydroplane.
- Water Depth on Roadways: Pooled or standing water will decrease tire contact with the roadway and may result in hydroplaning.
- Tire Pressure: Increased speed and under-inflated tires can result in your losing up to 40 percent of your tires' contact with the road, leading to hydroplaning.
- Tread Depth: Proper tire tread depth allows water to escape, providing proper contact between the tire and the roadway. It is recommended that you have at least 1/16-inch tread depth. A quick way of checking the proper tread is to insert a penny upside down in the tire groove at which point you should not be able to see the top of President Lincoln's head.
- Overloading and Heavy Vehicles: These conditions may contribute to hydroplaning.
To minimize your chances of hydroplaning and getting into an accident, it is suggested that you do at least the following:
- Reduce Speed: During a heavy rain storm, experts recommend slowing down to 30 mph. Remember, the posted speed limit is the maximum driving speed for optimum driving conditions. If roadway conditions are less than optimal, you must slow down. The likelihood of hydroplaning increases with higher speeds.
- Avoid Sudden Braking: In order to properly slow your vehicle down remove your foot from the accelerator rather than slam on your brakes. Once you regain traction then slowly brake.
- Do Not Turn Your Wheel Sharply: It is better to steer straight ahead to get your vehicle under control before turning abruptly.
- Follow the Vehicle Tracks: If at all possible, follow in the traveled portion of the roadway where the vehicle in front of you has already wicked the water from the roadway.
- Avoid Standing Water: Pooled and standing water decrease tire contact with the road. Avoid standing water whenever possible or reduce your speed before hitting a puddle.
If you recognize the potential hazards before driving your vehicle and take the appropriate remedial action, you can greatly reduce the risk of accidents for you and your loved ones.
Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. He is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut"; and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents." You can download a free copy of one of our free eBooks on our website. If you have been injured and need to talk to a Connecticut Personal Injury Lawyer, call 888-244-5480 for a free consultation.