For many drivers, taking to the roads when conditions are wet will seem safer than when they are icy or snow-covered, but it's important to remember that there can be issues caused by surface water as well.
In fact, one of the most dangerous aspects of standing water can be the fact that many people disregard it, which can lead to the potential for accidents. Each grip point on a tyre is in contact with the road for an average of just 1/150th of a second, so if this is interrupted by water on the road, it can make driving very hazardous.
What is aquaplaning?
In order for a tyre to stay in contact with the road, it must be able to displace the water in front of it quickly enough. Aquaplaning will occur when this does not happen, and the water builds up faster than the tyre can handle. It will lead to the tyres losing contact with the road thanks to a film of water between the two. Much like driving on ice, drivers will lose steering ability, and it can be quite scary as it feels like you completely lose control of the car.
How to avoid aquaplaning
There are three main tactics drivers can try to avoid aquaplaning in wet conditions. The first of these is to simply drive slower. Aquaplaning will rarely happen at speeds slower than 55 mph, but it can happen at speeds as low as 35 mph in some conditions. Steering clear of puddles and driving in the tracks left by cars in front can also help lower the risks of aquaplaning.
Another tip is to avoid using cruise control when you're driving in wet conditions. It's far more likely that you'll lose control of the car during a time when you're quite literally not in control of it at all. By steering clear of cruise control, you'll be in a much better position to react.
Lastly, you need to make sure your tyres are in good condition. It stands to reason that the better condition your tyres are in, the better they will be able to grip the road. Make sure they are always properly inflated and have at least 2.5mm of grip.
What to do if your vehicle aquaplanes
When your car starts to aquaplane, it will be easy enough to identify. You will feel the steering go light very quickly and you'll get the impression that the back end of the car is starting to slide, while there may also be an audible increase in revs.
Dealing with this issue will mostly be about just ensuring that you don't panic. First of all, don't try to regain control of the car by steering into any slide and never slam on the brakes when you realise you are sliding. Instead, you should always ease off the accelerator until you feel the car find its traction again. When you feel it start to grip, you can right your steering and brake slowly to bring control back to the car.
Posted by Danielle Barge