What are the Dangers of Hydroplaning?

Rain soaked car

Most drivers have probably experienced hydroplaning at least once in their lives. It is difficult for a driver to control a car that is hydroplaning, which can lead to accidents and harm to the driver and other motorists. Drivers who are involved in a car accident involving hydroplaning are urged to contact an experienced car wreck lawyer for assistance.

What is Hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning refers to a car losing traction on a wet road when water collects more quickly than the tires can push it away, causing the vehicle to slip or skid. Although hydroplaning can happen when a driver hits a large puddle or standing water on the roadway, the American Safety Council says the first 10 minutes of light rain are generally when most hydroplaning occurs. This is because water mixes with oil residue on the road, making an already wet road even more slippery. When the car loses traction because of hydroplaning, it can be difficult for the driver to maintain steering and braking control.  The car may veer off the side of the road, into another lane, or spin out of control.

What Causes Hydroplaning?

The causes of hydroplaning are numerous. Rain and other water are obvious causes, but there are others. The road’s surface quality; grade; and type, such as asphalt or cement, can factor into a hydroplaning accident. The vehicle itself could also be at fault; examples include low tire treads or underinflated tires and problems with brakes or power steering. Sometimes hydroplaning and related accidents are caused by driver error: speeding, braking, or turning too quickly, or generally not driving for the road conditions.

How Common are Hydroplaning Accidents?

Hydroplaning accidents are counted as weather-related accidents. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) compiled over 10 years:

  • There are close to 5.9 million vehicle crashes annually in the United States.
  • Approximately 21 percent of these crashes, or 1.2 million, are weather related, defined as crashes that occur in bad weather such as rain, sleet, snow, fog, wind, or on slick pavement caused by rain, ice, or snow.
  • Nearly 5,000 people are killed and more than 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year.
  • Most weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement and while it is raining: 70 percent on wet pavement and 46 percent during rainfall.
  • Winter weather accidents occur less frequently than rain-related accidents: 18 percent during snow or sleet, 13 percent on icy pavement, and 16 percent on snowy or slushy pavement.

How can I Prevent Hydroplaning?

Every driver should first and foremost drive for the weather conditions. Adverse weather, especially if it comes up quickly, requires drivers to use extra caution and focus. When a driver is traveling on wet roads or where water has gathered, the following tips can help prevent a hydroplaning accident:

  • Check tire quality: keep tires properly inflated year-round and replace tires with low treads, slow leaks, or other damage.
  • Rotate tires and service the vehicle as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Slow down when roads are wet. High speeds do not allow tires to do their jobs of wicking water away from the car.
  • Avoid puddles and standing water; drive around them if safe to do so.
  • Try to avoid driving in outer lanes or close to the side of the road where water tends to accumulate.
  • Do not use cruise control on wet pavement. A driver needs to be in control of the speed at all times.
  • Do not brake quickly or aggressively. This can make the car veer out of control on wet pavement.
  • Begin slowly braking well before it is needed to account for potential slipping on a wet road.
  • Consider driving in a lower gear; enable traction control and other safety devices in the vehicle.
  • Do not make abrupt or sharp turns. Doing so on a wet road can cause hydroplaning, leading to skidding.
  • Keep extra distance from the car ahead in case they hydroplane.
  • Turn on lights, windshield wipers, use blinkers, and drive defensively.
  • Continually scan the road horizon to look for road conditions that could cause the car or another driver’s vehicle to hydroplane.
  • Always be prepared for changing road conditions. Light rain can be as dangerous as a large standing puddle when it comes to hydroplaning.
  • Check the weather forecasts before heading out to know what may be coming.

What Should I Do if My Car Starts to Hydroplane?

It can feel scary when a car starts hydroplaning, but drivers should remain calm and not overreact. Hydroplaning can happen with even the most cautious drivers. When it does happen, the following tips are helpful:

  • Do not slam on the brakes or use them at all, despite that being the first instinct. Release the gas pedal to allow the vehicle to decrease speed on its own.
  • Try to keep the car steered in a straight path. Make slight steering corrections if needed, but do not turn sharply or quickly.
  • As the vehicle slows, it should regain some traction. At this point, slowly ease onto the brakes to slow the vehicle and regain control.

Although this is an ideal scenario for controlling a hydroplane, sometimes road conditions, other motorists, and the type of roadway a vehicle is on will factor into how a driver handles a hydroplane. The best advice is to drive cautiously enough that hydroplaning does not even occur.

What if I am in an Accident with a Hydroplaning Car?

As with any vehicle accident, the first step is to call for medical help and police assistance if able. Then, if possible, the following steps should be taken:

  • Someone should take pictures of the cars involved, injuries to the driver and others, the surrounding area and weather, and the roadway and driving conditions.
  • Try to get witness statements, ideally on video, and witness names contact information.
  • When first responders arrive, cooperate fully, and do not refuse medical treatment even if there are no obvious injuries.
  • Calmly provide all the accident details, including how the other driver may have caused the accident. For example, note if they were speeding, did not have lights on, slammed on the brakes, or veered into another lane. Drivers should not admit guilt or responsibility for any part of the accident.
  • As soon as possible, drivers and passengers should see a doctor or visit an emergency room or urgent care facility to be thoroughly checked out. Injuries sometimes do not appear until a day or more later, so victims must be vigilant about aches and pains.
  • Contact an experienced car wreck lawyer to understand the rights and compensation for which victims are entitled.

Who is Liable in a Hydroplaning Accident?

In most cases, the driver of the car that was hydroplaning is liable for the accident. However, hydroplaning accidents are not always so clear-cut. Sometimes a car or tire manufacturer can be held liable in an accident. Perhaps a manufacturing defect caused faulty brakes or unsafe tires, leading to a hydroplaning accident. Local or state governments have also been held liable in some weather-related accidents. For example, improper road maintenance or construction can lead to excess water build-up, making it easier for cars to hydroplane. Or perhaps a large spill or other cause of wet pavements were not properly or quickly cleaned up, causing hydroplaning accidents.

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Fight for Victims of Weather-Related Accidents

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident caused by a weather-related condition such as hydroplaning, the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton will provide the assistance victims require. No matter the cause, when another driver is at fault in an accident, our dedicated legal team will secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.