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Aquaplaning: Not as much fun (or safe) as it sounds

Friday, April 4, 2014, 11:33 AM -

Aquaplaning? Sounds like an extreme sport, something that might fit in with BASE jumping, zorbing or kite surfing.

Commonly referred to as Hydroplaning, it is no fun at all but it will certainly get your heart rate jumping.

Hydroplaning is the loss of control of your vehicle when you drive over water at a high speed.

ACTIVE WEATHER: Heavy rain, thunderstorm risk hits southern Ontario Friday

After a winter of icy roads, you might think spring is a respite from the dangers of slippery roads and sliding out of control, it is not. If anything, sliding along on top of a layer of liquid water is even more hazardous than on ice because hydroplaning usually happens at high speed. This can happen with cars, SUVs, big trucks and even motorcycles.

  • The Physics - If you make contact with water at enough force, the water does not have the time or ability to flow out of the way – the vehicle tire will actually rise up onto the water.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

As noted, one of the main contributors is speed. Additional factors can contribute – worn tires are the most common, but wide tires on a light vehicle can also increase the opportunity to pop up onto the water like a surfboard.

Preventing Hydroplaning:

  • Reduce speed in the rain, do not use cruise control.
  • Ensure that your tires are within manufacturer specifications for tread depth – no wear bars showing.
  • Correct tire pressure – underinflated tires can increase the likelihood of hydroplaning.
  • If roads have standing water, slow down to accommodate. Pay attention, watch for ponding – usually the far right lane. Lane ruts can also fill in quite quickly on a road with low volume.

Reacting to Hydroplaning:

  • When it happens do not panic. The feeling is very unsettling, your car will feel disconnected from the road with little or no control, much like being on glare ice.

The National Safety Council provides some great advice;

If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally. The car's computer will automatically pump the brakes much more effectively than a person can do.

One additional note on driving in rainy conditions; the highway can be very slippery during the first few minutes of rain. The initial water on the road will lift oil out of the asphalt. This condition will improve as the water washes off the highway taking the oil with it but the lack of traction is quite surprising if you are not prepared for it. Loss of traction because of the oil residue on your tires can happen on any road and any speed.

BEAT THE TRAFFIC: How will your commute be affected? Rely on Beat the Traffic for real-time traffic updates that matter to you. Visit www.beatthetraffic.com and download the app on iTunes or Google Play and get there sooner!

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