No surprises for the UK in winter, but we’ve had a lot of rain lately. Even the areas that haven’t faced flooding, have experienced torrential downpours. Which can create really unpleasant and dangerous driving conditions. But one of the greatest potential hazards of driving in the rain is aquaplaning (AKA hydroplaning). If you don’t know what you’re doing, or if you’re experiencing these conditions for the first time as a newly qualified or learner driver, it can be chancy. So, what do you need to know about aquaplaning?
How to Avoid Aquaplaning and What to do When it Happens
What is aquaplaning?
Aquaplaning happens when water coats the surface of the road. If you’re travelling at speed, your tyres become unable to grip the surface of the road. This will lead to your vehicle becoming unresponsive to steering. When it happens, it’s really frightening. And it is responsible for hundreds of accidents every year. Aquaplaning can happen to anybody. But it is much more likely to occur if your tyres are in a poor condition, or you are driving too fast.
When is aquaplaning most likely to occur?
Aquaplaning most commonly happens following a sudden downpour. But it can be the result of flooding. Or in places where water can build up on a regular basis, such as dips in the road, uneven surfaces, or low-lying areas. You are most likely to experience aquaplaning if you hit standing water at speed.
How can you avoid aquaplaning?
The best way to avoid aquaplaning is to not drive at speed in wet conditions. You should also ensure that you keep your tyres in a good condition, with a tread of at least 3mm and with the right pressure. And to try to drive as smoothly as possible, avoiding any sudden reactions when driving in wet weather, such as unnecessary acceleration. It can also help to replan your route if you know that you’re likely to take in roads that are prone to surface water. And do not use cruise control is wet conditions.
How do you know if you are aquaplaning?
There are four main signs that you are aquaplaning.
- Your steering will become lighter and unresponsive.
- Your engine will become much, much louder.
- The car’s revs will increase.
- And you may feel the rear tyres beginning to drift to one side.
What should you do if you begin to aquaplane?
Because it is very conditions-based, handling aquaplaning isn’t something that many people will be taught in their driving lessons. So, knowing what to do and how to control your car if it begins to aquaplane can literally be lifesaving.
- Don’t slam on the brakes. If you hit the brakes hard when aquaplaning, the likely outcome is that you will swerve, badly. So, although it’s counter-intuitive, avoid the brakes if you feel like you’ve lost control.
- Ease off the accelerator. While you don’t want to brake, taking your foot off the accelerator will help your car to slow naturally, allowing your wheels to increase traction.
- Keep the steering wheel straight. The last thing you want to do when aquaplaning is to swerve into oncoming traffic, or spin. If you can keep the steering wheel straight, you have more chance of staying in lane.
- Gently brake once you feel that your car has regained traction. When you feel that your car is properly connecting with the road, you should gently press your brakes to slow your vehicle and regain full control.
- Test your brakes. Once you’re safely away from the surface water and it is safe to do so, gently test your brakes to ensure that they are functioning fully.
Aquaplaning is a fairly common occurrence. And it is really easy to lose control. Understanding how to avoid it, what happens to your car when you are aquaplaning, and how to regain control, are vitally important if you want to stay safe on the road.
If you are worried about aquaplaning, ask your driving instructor for advice. And if you are looking for driving lessons in the West Midlands, get in touch with DGN.