Aquaplaning: The Dos and Dont’s
Aquaplaning is where a vehicle loses all traction whilst on a wet surface. The vehicle is literally lifted off the surface of the road and moves along on a cushion of water. Aquaplaning is a hazard a driver encounters during rainy weather, or if there is a leak on the road, and the risk can be increased if you do not amend your driving under these conditions. Speeding in wet conditions lessens the grip the tyres have on the road. Also, tyres that are worn down or damaged in some way cannot effectively spread water across their surface which can also increase the chance of aquaplaning. Heavy rainfall leads to a greater increase of water on the road, also making aquaplaning more likely. A vehicle should keep at a low speed on wet roads and try to avoid going through puddles or large pools of water. If a vehicle is in front, it might be a good idea to keep in their tracks, as this will give you more traction and mean your tyres will have less water to disperse.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you are aquaplaning, it can be a very frightening experience. It is likely you will have little or even no control of the vehicle. The best way to overcome this situation is to hold perfectly still. Don’t move your arms or feet and do not turn the steering wheel or take your foot off the accelerator. In most cases, aquaplaning only lasts a few seconds at most, and the best thing to do is to wait until it finishes and the vehicle comes back under normal control again.
If you do need to take some kind of control of the vehicle to avoid any problems though, make sure the car is pointed straight ahead, and keep all necessary steering timid and calm. Any steering done should be focused on keeping the car moving forward. Very gently, ease off the accelerator so that the vehicle slows down of its own accord. If the vehicle is a manual transmission car, disengage the clutch and also switch off cruise control. If you have to brake, brake normally. Gently pump the brakes until control is fully regained.
When caught in an aquaplaning situation, it is very important not to panic. Losing control of a vehicle when driving can provoke a panicked and irrational response. This can make the situation worse and lead to accidents. It is vital to remain calm and collected. Do not slam on your brakes as that can cause the vehicle to slide uncontrollably. Also, do not accelerate while the vehicle is skidding and sliding as that will only make matters worse. Despite the temptation to intervene, the vehicle needs to right itself, with only very gentle guidance from the driver. If you need to steer the car whilst it is aquaplaning, try and avoid sharp or jerky movements of the wheel. This could cause the vehicle to spin out of control. Turning too forcefully can also cause you to overcorrect when trying to stay in the direction you want your vehicle to go in.
By remaining calm and focused, and not overreacting, a driver should be able to effectively handle a situation where they are aquaplaning in a careful and efficient way.