In yesterday’s post I explained how, at least in the near future, you are more likely to encounter rain than snow while driving in New Jersey. It has been unseasonably warm. I also noted that, statistically at least, driving in the rain is more dangerous than driving in the snow.
One of the more common–and terrifying– hazards of driving in the rain is hydroplaning.
-What is hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning happens when the tires are riding on the top of a layer of water and have completely lost contact with the pavement. It can happen when your speed is as little as 35 mph. You will know when it happens. “Steering will get light in your hands,” explains Bill Van Tassel, Ph.D., manager of driver training programs for the AAA national office in Orlando, Florida.
–What do i do if I hydroplane?
“Gently ease your foot off the gas,” Van Tassel advises. “This may transfer enough weight forward so that your front tires regain contact with the road.”
If not, he says, gently squeeze your brakes to slow the vehicle down and transfer weight to the front tires. Steering will not really be possible, since the tires are riding on a film of water.
“We don’t recommend turning the wheel in a hydroplaning situation,” he says. “If you have some steering ‘dialed in’ when the front tires finally do regain traction, you might immediately steer right off the road. Obviously, that’s not a good thing.”
If you do start to skid, don’t turn into the skid, regardless of what you’ve heard. “Continue to look and steer where you want to go,” Van Tassel says. This strategy works for both front and rear skids.
—Get Comfortable With Scary Situations
Some wet-weather driving emergencies can be handled by an application of common sense. Others require something more, such as practicing driving techniques that can save your life. Consider taking an advanced driving training class. But whatever else you do, begin with the simplest life-saver of all: SLOW DOWN WHEN THE RAIN STARTS TO FALL.
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