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We have had one of the rainiest years in Arkansas than we can remember with historic flooding.  With wet roads comes the increased risk of hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is when a vehicle starts sliding uncontrollably due to the tires encountering more water than the treads can displace. When driving at high speeds over wet pavement, the water begins to push the front tires off the ground slightly, creating a thin film between the tire and the road. That film, and the resulting separation of the road and tire, causes the driver to lose control of the car and possibly end up in a crash.

Hydroplaning can be triggered in different ways, but the most common is driving at speed on a wet road that is too fast.  This can be lower speeds that are too fast for conditions. Water that is displaced by the tires tends to gravitate towards the front of the tires. If the buildup is large enough, the tires may lose contact with the pavement, which can cause the car to lose control. When you’re speeding, the possibility of the water buildup lifting your tire from the pavement becomes much more likely.

The most dangerous time to drive is at the beginning of a rain storm, because the oils on the pavement left by vehicles rise from the ground and make the pavement slippery.   Those painted road lines can be the slickest part so try to avoid them.

 Also, its better not to make quick movements on slippery pavement or drive through puddles or standing water.

So slow down, try to avoid standing water, and turn off cruise control, but that doesn’t mean  complete safety. If you start to hydroplane, it is best to gently pump the brakes, rather than slam on the brakes.  Take your foot off the accelerator and start to correct your spin. It is counterintuitive, but turn your steering wheel in the direction the car is sliding. If the back of your car starts sliding right, turn your wheel to the right. Then, as your car slowly starts to straighten out, mirror that movement on the steering wheel.  Similarly, if the back of your car starts to slide left, turn the steering wheel to the left.

To minimize your chances of hydroplaning, try to drive in the tire tracks left by other vehicles. Most of the water will have already been displaced, meaning there’s more space for your tire to make full contact with the pavement.  Hopefully you have prepared by inspecting the depth of the tread on your tires, inflated the tires properly and regularly rotated the tires.

Then the next time you are driving in heavy rain, slow down.  Even better, if the conditions are hazardous, pull on to the side of the road and put on your emergency lights.  Drive safe and be prepared for those pop up summer showers in Arkansas that often come in without warning. Hopefully we all follow these basic safety rules.  Important rules that benefit us all on the roadways.

Taken from What is Hydroplaning and How Can I Avoid It ?  May 31,2018, Brian McHugh, cars.usnews.com.

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