What to Do If You Hydroplane in Your Car

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SUV Driving on Wet Road in the RainHitting a water puddle while on the road can send your car skidding out of control in something called hydroplaning. Hydroplaning in your car happens when your car loses contact with the surface of the road, and your tires cannot grab onto anything for traction. Usually, your tires can disperse moisture on the road and maintain control, but sometimes, the amount of water is too much for the tires to clear.

What Hydroplaning Feels Like

Your tire treads have filled up with water when you hydroplane. When this happens, your car might:

  • Slide toward the outside of a curve if your front wheels are involved.
  • Veer sideways into a skid from the rear of the vehicle if the rear tires are hydroplaning.
  • Slide forward like a sled if all four tires have lost traction.

You could also feel your car veering to the right or left or sense an increase in speed as your tires spin.

Tips for Getting Control of your Vehicle When it Hydroplanes

The worst thing to do when hydroplaning is to panic. Although skidding out of control can be terrifying, you need to stay calm and not fight the skid. Sudden braking or steering maneuvers will increase the sliding, just as if you were driving on ice. Most hydroplaning events only last for a second or two, even if they feel like an eternity. As soon as the skid stops, you can regain control.

Here is your game plan for surviving a hydroplaning incident:

  1. Gently take your foot off of the gas. If your foot was on the brake at the beginning of the slide, ease your foot off of it. Disengage the clutch if you are driving a stick shift car.
  2. Just as when driving on ice or snow, gently steer the car in the direction you want to go. Some call this “steering into the skid.”
  3. Even if you need to make more than one-course correction as you regain traction, do not jerk the wheel back and forth. Use small steering movements as if you were steering a boat.
  4. If you absolutely have to brake during the skid, pump the brakes gently until you feel the tires re-engage with the road’s surface.

How to Avoid Hydroplaning

Ideally, you want to avoid a hydroplaning incident. Here are some suggestions on how to avoid hydroplaning in your car:

  • Try to delay your travel for a few minutes. During the first few minutes of rainfall, the water sits on top of oil and other substances on the road’s surface, making the road slippery. This situation is more likely if there has been no recent rainfall and gunk has built-up on the surface.
  • Slow down. Faster speeds increase your likelihood of hydroplaning. As long as you are not impeding the flow of traffic, it is fine to drive slower on wet roads.
  • Keep a careful watch for puddles on the road after a spot of rain or when the snow melts.
  • Often the lanes with more traffic will have less standing water because the cars driving through the puddles splash the water off of the road surface.
  • Replace your tires if the tread is worn.
  • Make sure the air pressure in your tires meets the recommendations in your car’s operating manual. Underinflated or overinflated tires have less control and traction than tires with the correct pressure.
  • Replace your windshield wiper blades when they become worn so that you can see the puddles before you hit them.
  • Do not tailgate, as doing so will limit your opportunity to maneuver around puddles. Also, you are likely to rear-end the vehicle in front of you if it slows suddenly because of a pool of water or it hydroplanes. If someone is tailgating you, try to change lanes if you can do so safely.
  • Turn off cruise control. Having your foot on the gas pedal will allow you to change speeds quicker than if you are using cruise control.

Insurance Options in Hydroplane Accidents

There are several options for insurance coverage if you suffer injuries in a hydroplane crash. These can include:

  • Your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage of your auto policy may cover your injuries.
  • The auto policy of another driver if that person’s negligence contributed to the accident may cover your injuries.
  • Your health insurance might help with your medical bills, but this type of insurance often excludes coverage for car crashes.
  • The medical payments coverage of your auto policy might pay some of your medical bills, but this coverage is usually only a few thousand dollars.

Getting Legal Help for a Hydroplane Wreck

If you suffered severe injuries or someone else caused the accident, contact Max Meyers Law for help. We can evaluate whether you might be eligible for compensation. Give us a call today at 425-399-7000, so we can line up your free consultation. We do not charge legal fees until you get a recovery for your losses.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.