What is Hydroplaning?

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    November 20 2019

    You’re on your way to work when you encounter some heavy rain. You can’t afford to be late again! You pull into your work parking lot, you begin to apply the brakes. Suddenly, you feel like you’ve lost control of your vehicle as the tires slide across the wet pavement! This is aquaplaning, or hydroplaning. 

    What is Hydroplaning?

    According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, there are over 5.8 million vehicle crashes a year.  Twenty-one percent of these crashes are weather-related. The majority of weather-related accidents are due to wet conditions: 70% on wet pavement and 46% during rainfall. 

    Even if the loss of control lasts for a split second, hydroplaning can be a scary experience. It’s important to understand what hydroplaning is so that you can avoid it, and stay safe on the roads through unpleasant weather conditions and wet roads.

    What Causes Hydroplaning?

    Hydroplaning can occur whenever tires come into contact with the wet road surface. There are three main factors that contribute to hydroplaning:

    1. Speed –  When you increase speed on a wet surface, traction is significantly reduced. The faster your car travels, the higher the chance of losing control of your vehicle. 
    2. Tire Tread – Tires don’t last forever. Over time, tires get worn down.  This puts you at a higher risk for hydroplaning. Bald tires are especially dangerous because they provide no tread. 
    3. Water Depth – Hydroplaning happens when your tires encounter water, This means that the more water, the higher the risk of hydroplaning. However, even a thin layer of water can cause hydroplaning.  

    What Happens When You Hydroplane?

    When a car’s tires encounter more water than they can scatter, they lose traction control. The buildup of water around the tires creates water pressure that causes the tires to lose contact with the road. When this happens, you might experience:

    Increase in Speed

    You might experience a sudden acceleration of your wheels while skidding. The speedometer and engine RPM (revolutions per minute) will show an increase as your tires begin to spin. 

    Sudden Change in Direction

    If you were driving straight, your car might skid to the left or right. If your front wheels hydroplane, your car might slide towards the bend. If your back wheels hydroplane, your car might veer sideways.

    Loose Steering Wheel

    As your car skids, you might notice a lack of feedback from your steering wheel. It will feel loose and out of control even when you try to straighten out. 

    As you can see, it can be easy to hydroplane, and this can lead to a car accident. If you’ve been involved in an auto accident in the Las Vegas area, give our law firm a call today: (702) 857-6000. We offer a free initial consultation. Our extensive experience as car accident lawyers can help you receive the best outcome in your case. Don’t hesitate; we’re the car accident attorneys you need; call us now!

    What to Do If You Hydroplane

    Hydroplaning can be a scary experience, but there are certain steps you can take to stay as safe as possible.

    1. Stay calm. If you find yourself hydroplaning, the last thing you want to do is panic and make an impulsive decision that could result in an accident– or worse! Stay calm and focused while you wait for the skidding to stop. Most hydroplaning skids only last a split second before you regain control of your vehicle.  
    2. Don’t slam your brakes. Although slamming the brakes might seem like the logical decision when your car is out of control, resist the urge. The wheels won’t stop, they’ll slide. In fact, hitting the brakes can cause further loss of control of the vehicle. If you must brake, do so gently with light pumping actions. 
    3. Ease your foot off the gas pedal. Any amount of acceleration can make the situation worse, so you want to take your foot off the gas pedal. If you happened to be braking before your car went into hydroplane, ease up on the brake to slow down until the skidding stops. If you are driving a manual transmission, disengage the clutch. 
    4. Do not turn your steering wheel suddenly. Just like sudden acceleration, turning the steering wheel suddenly can throw your car into a skid. Instead, try to steer in the direction you want the car to go. This is also known as “steering into the skid.” Maintain a firm grip on your steering wheel and with small movements steer the car in the right direction. Eventually, you will regain traction.

    We hope our list of prevention tips on this page can help you control your car in rainy conditions. If you are involved in a car accident due to hydroplaning or another reason, please call us at (702) 857-6000. We’re the experienced Las Vegas car accident attorneys you need to help you get a positive outcome for your case. With our free initial consultation, you can present your information to us. We’ll let you know if you have a case and how we can proceed on your behalf.

    Ways to Avoid Hydroplaning  

    Now that you know what hydroplaning is, let’s look at how to avoid hydroplaning and how to stay safe on the roads.

    Take Care of Your Tires 

    • Bald or balding tires have shallow tread depth or no tread at all, reducing their ability to resist hydroplaning. Always measure your tread depth on your tires to know when they need to be replaced.
    • Over time your tires lose air, due to temperature changes and regular use. Do regular tire pressure checks to make sure your tires are properly inflated according to the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines. Underinflated tires are more likely to hydroplane.
    • Remember to rotate your tires so that the tires wear evenly and you protect the tread. It is recommended to rotate your tires about every oil change, or every 3,000-5,000 miles, depending on how much you drive. 

    Slow Down

    • During wet roads or wet weather conditions, slow down. The faster you drive, the harder it is to maintain tread on wet roads.
    • Brake and accelerate gradually and carefully.

    Avoid Water

    • If the weather is unbearable, forgo the road and wait the weather out. Better to be safe than risk hazardous driving conditions.
    • Try to avoid the outer lanes where water tends to accumulate.
    • Avoid any puddles, potholes, or standing water.

    Turn off Cruise Control

    • If it’s raining or snowing, don’t use cruise control. Cruise control can be dangerous on wet roads because it keeps your car at a certain speed.
    • If you have cruise control turned on, disable it by applying your brakes. However, if you do not have anti-lock brakes and you’re at risk for hydroplaning, hitting your brakes can be dangerous. It’s best to avoid cruise control from the start of your trip.

    Follow the Tracks

    • Try to drive in the same tire tracks as the vehicle in front of you. You’re more likely to be driving in parts of the road that water has been mostly displaced. 

    Avoid Hard Braking

    • Hitting the brakes hard can cause you to lose traction, increasing your chance of hydroplaning.

    Avoid Sharp Turns

    • Sudden movements can cause hydroplaning, so try to keep steady and straight.
    • Avoid changing lanes or passing other cars unless you must.

    Keep off Painted Road Lines

    • The parts of the road with painted lines tend to be slicker. Try to avoid driving over these by staying in your lane as much as possible.

    Pull over

    • If you don’t feel safe, you can always pull over! Better to wait out the storm, or give yourself a moment before getting back on the road. 
    • Use your signals and/or emergency lights to pull over to a safe spot, like a parking lot.

    Experienced Las Vegas Car Accident Attorneys

    Even Las Vegas gets rain sometimes.  During these rare occurrences, there is a risk of hydroplaning and an increased risk of car accidents.  If you or a loved one has been in a weather-related auto accident in the State of Nevada, you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney who is licensed in Nevada as soon as possible. The law firm of Anthem Injury Lawyers has a dedicated team of car accident lawyers and staff who are ready to help you with your car accident case.

    We offer free case evaluations.  Our office is conveniently located in Henderson, but we work with clients all over the Las Vegas Valley, including North Las Vegas, Summerlin, Spring Valley, Anthem, and the Strip.

    Contact us today for a Free Consultation at (702) 857-6000.

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