Driving on wet surfaces can be dangerous. In some conditions, all it takes is a small amount of water between your tires and the road, and you could find your vehicle hydroplaning. What is hydroplaning? How does hydroplaning feel? And most importantly, how can you regain control if it happens to you? This short guide will cover the basics of hydroplaning, how to stay safe, and how technology can help.
What’s the meaning of hydroplaning?
Also known as “aquaplaning,” the definition of hydroplane is simple: it means to skim over the surface of water. Essentially, when you’re hydroplaning that’s what your vehicle is doing—it’s sliding or skidding over a wet surface.
Hydroplaning feels like your vehicle is floating or veering in a direction all on its own, and you’re no longer in control. At that moment, your tires have lost traction with the road, and you’ll see your engine revs rise and an inaccurate reading on your speedometer as your wheels spin.
What causes hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning is usually caused by wet roads. Contrary to popular belief, hydroplaning may even occur when roads are only damp. All it takes is a very thin layer of water for your tires to lose their grip.
Statistically, hydroplaning is most likely to occur in the first 10 minutes of light rain. During this time, rain mixes with oils on the pavement. If you are traveling over this wet oily surface at 35 miles per hour or more, you’re in the hydroplaning danger zone. Hydroplaning also frequently occurs when driving through puddles or standing water.
The reason hydroplaning happens has to do with how tires work. Basically, tire tread is designed to scatter water as the tire moves over a wet surface. When tires encounter a larger amount of water than the tread can scatter, that’s when they lose grip on the road.
How do you control hydroplaning?
Although most hydroplaning skids only last a few seconds, those moments can be incredibly dangerous depending on how you react. The key is to avoid overcorrecting, which can cause you to further lose control. If your vehicle begins to hydroplane, you should slowly lift your foot off the gas pedal. Then, remain calm as gravity slows your vehicle down and your tires come back into contact with the road.
Meanwhile, keep a firm grip on your steering wheel. Don’t attempt to steer or brake. It’s best to wait until after you’re out of the skid before you make a move. If you’re in a prolonged skid, although it may seem counterintuitive, you can slightly turn your steering wheel in the direction your car is hydroplaning. This helps your tires realign with the direction your vehicle is traveling and can assist you in regaining steering control.
How to avoid hydroplaning
Here are some tips to avoid hydroplaning:
- Drive slower in wet conditions. At higher speeds, your tires are more likely to lose contact with wet surfaces.
- Disable cruise control on wet roads. If you start hydroplaning, it will take additional time for you to turn off this function and slow down to regain control of your vehicle.
- Always pay attention to the road surface. Keep an eye out for puddles and wet areas, which tend to form along the edge of the roadway. If it has been raining, choose lanes that are in the center of the pavement.
- Drive in the tracks of the vehicles in front of you. The tires of other vehicles ahead will displace a lot of the surface water and reduce the likelihood of your tires losing traction.
- Keep up on vehicle maintenance. Regularly inspect your tire tread (bald tires hydroplane easily), maintain good tire pressure, and make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape.
Stay safe with Netradyne
The best way to avoid hydroplaning is to pay close attention to your surroundings and practice safe driving techniques. However, some commercial transportation companies also use the latest driving technology as a second line of defense.
Netradyne’s Driveri is an advanced vision-based driver recognition fleet safety solution that helps drivers mitigate unsafe behaviors and avoid collisions in dangerous road conditions. Driveri combines cutting-edge technology, including AI, dash cams, and fleet management software to take road safety to the next level. It provides increased visibility inside and outside the vehicle, quick access to video footage, smart recognition technology, and real-time notifications.
Netradyne’s technology is designed to generate in-cab alerts to help drivers be aware of a variety of risks, like distracted driving, drowsiness, and potential external hazards, like puddles and standing water in the road. These alerts enable drivers to self-correct and drive defensively. Netradyne also tracks driver progress, enabling fleets to reward positive driver behavior.
Whenever there are wet road conditions, drivers should always take extra precautions to avoid hydroplaning. If you start to hydroplane, keep calm and remember to follow simple rules to quickly regain control. Remember that hydroplaning can be avoided if you reduce speed during wet conditions, maintain your vehicle, and pay close attention to the roads.
Driver and road safety is the core of Netradyne’s mission because it’s critical to the success and health of our customers. Netradyne provides powerful driving technology for positive safety improvements, helping reduce distracted driving by as much as 60 percent.