An estimated one out of four roadway deaths and 445,000 injuries each year are the result of crashes in some type of inclement weather. Of those fatalities and injuries related to weather, 46% occurred during rainfall, and 73% occurred on wet roads.
In short, rain and wet roads pose serious hazards for your drivers. Chief among them is hydroplaning. It occurs when a tire encounters more water than it can scatter. As speed increases, the tires start to ride up on the layer of water, much like waterskiing.
Hydroplaning can happen when driving just 35 mph, and the chances increase when going 55 mph or more. When it occurs, the vehicle loses contact with the pavement and loses traction. This means the driver can't brake, accelerate or turn — posing a serious roadway situation.
Moreover, while hydroplaning can occur on any wet surface, surprisingly, the first 10 minutes of a light rain can be the most dangerous, say experts. A downpour is not necessary. Rather, when light rain mixes with oil residue on the road surface, it creates slippery conditions that can lead to hydroplaning.
To avoid hydroplaning, experts recommend the following:
- Keep tires properly inflated and maintain good tread
- Rotate and replace tires when necessary
- Slow down on wet roads
- Steer clear of puddles and standing water
- Avoid driving in outer lanes where water tends to pool
- Try to drive in the tracks of the vehicle in front of yours
- Don't use cruise control
- Avoid sharp turns or hard braking
- Pay attention to a “shushing” sound — it's a signal to slow down.
To recover from hydroplaning, experts recommend the following:
- Keep the wheels straight and reduce speed — This allows the tires and the road to re-gain contact.
- Do not brake or turn — Rather, ease your foot off the gas until you feel the road again.
- Pump the brake — If you need to brake, do so gently with a light pumping action.
- Understand anti-lock brakes — If you have anti-lock brakes you can brake normally, as the technology is programmed to mimic pumping when necessary.