When people think of unsafe road conditions, they often picture roadways that are covered in snow, ice, or freezing rain. These are certainly not ideal driving conditions, but what many motorists may not realize is how dangerous roads can become when even a light rain starts to fall. Rainy conditions can cause a vehicle to start skidding or sliding uncontrollably, as if the car is sliding on a sheet of ice. This slipping and sliding is known as hydroplaning, and it can occur on any wet surface, although the first 10 minutes of a light rain is often the most dangerous because rain mixes with the oily residue on the road, which causes the road to become very slippery.
What is Hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning refers to the skidding or sliding that occurs when a vehicle’s tires come in contact with a wet surface. When the water on the road surface in front of the car gathers more quickly than the tires can push it away, the pressure of the water can elevate the car, which creates a thin film between the tires and the road. This causes the tires to lose traction, making it very difficult for the driver to maintain control of the vehicle. Although hydroplaning can occur during a heavy rainfall when a large amount of water has accumulated on the roads, it is important for motorists to understand that hydroplaning is most likely to occur during the first 10 minutes of rainfall when the water and oil creates ideal conditions for hydroplaning. Being aware of this hazard can help motorists use extra caution when driving during these conditions.
What are the Common Causes of Hydroplaning?
In addition to rainy conditions and rainwater mixing with oily residue on the roads, hydroplaning can also be caused by a range of other factors, including wheel track depth, road grade, and the texture of the pavement. There is also an increased risk of hydroplaning when rainfall is particularly intense and continues for an extended period of time, which causes the water depth to be greater. Driver behavior is also a factor. For example, speeding, sudden braking, and sharp steering can cause hydroplaning, as can improper tire inflation and tire treads that are worn.
Is Hydroplaning a Common Problem?
According to the Federal Highway Administration, approximately 37,000 people are fatally injured and another 2.3 million are injured in car accidents each year in the United States. Safety officials estimate that approximately 22 percent of the 5.7 million car accidents that occur each year are related to weather. Of the injuries and fatalities that were caused by inclement weather, 46 percent occurred during rain and 73 percent occurred on wet roads. In response to these alarming statistics, the National Institutes of Health has recommended that driving training programs should address the specific hazards associated with driving on wet, slippery roads and ensure that new drivers understand how to maintain control of the vehicle and avoid a serious accident.
How can I Prevent Hydroplaning?
When the weather forecast calls for rain, motorists should be prepared for the roads to become slippery and be aware that there is an increased risk for hydroplaning. People generally use extra caution when there is snow or freezing rain in the forecast, but they do not always consider the dangers of rain. Motorists are urged to keep the following tips in mind to stay safe and avoid hydroplaning when the roads become wet:
- Reduce speed. Speeding is unsafe regardless of the weather or the road conditions. The faster a motorist is driving, the more severe an accident and the resulting injuries are likely to be. However, when the roads are wet, driving over 35 mph can increase the risk of hydroplaning.
- Keep vehicles well maintained. Motorists must make sure that their vehicles are properly maintained and that all necessary repairs are made. This should include making sure that the tires are balanced and rotated, and that air pressure is properly adjusted. Tires with low air pressure and worn treads are more likely to hydroplane.
- Inspect tires on a regular basis. This is particularly important for people who live in areas that get a lot of rain or snow. Driving on bald or worn tires can be very dangerous, especially when the weather calls for rain. Motorists should check the tire treads and replace the tires when they are worn. A professional mechanic can also inspect the tires and notify drivers when it is time to replace the tires.
- Avoid using cruise control. Motorists should not use cruise control when it is raining or when water has begun to accumulate on the roads, because a driver often becomes less engaged in maintaining control of the vehicle. If a car begins to hydroplane, he or she may not be able to react quickly enough and regain control of the vehicle if cruise control is being used.
- Avoid puddles or areas with standing water. These may be difficult to spot, particularly at night, so it is important to stay focused and alert when roads are wet. If there appears to be more water in one lane or near the shoulder, there may be puddles up ahead. Drivers should scan the road, anticipate where water might accumulate, and switch lanes to avoid these hydroplaning hazards. It is best to drive in the tire tracks made by the cars ahead.
What Should I Do if My Vehicle Starts Hydroplaning?
Even motorists who use extreme caution when driving on wet, slippery roadways can start to hydroplane. However, drivers who understand how to react when their vehicle suddenly starts hydroplaning are better able to maintain control of their vehicle and avoid a serious accident. Motorists should keep the following tips when mind when hydroplaning occurs:
- Avoid slamming the brakes. Applying the brakes at all can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
- Rather than hitting the brakes, motorists should take their foot off the gas and allow the vehicle to slow down on its own.
- Drivers should try to keep the vehicle going straight forward by making small steering adjustments. Steering in the direction that the car is hydroplaning will help the tires realign and ultimately help a driver regain control of the vehicle. Sharp steering movements can cause a vehicle to swerve into another lane and crash into another car or truck.
- Once the car begins to slow down, it will regain traction, at which point it is safe to slowly apply the brakes.
Who is Liable for Hydroplaning Accidents?
As with other weather-related car accidents, questions may arise about who is at fault for a car accident that was caused by hydroplaning. There are a number of parties who may be held liable, based on the circumstances of the accident and the condition of the car and the road. The following are the three parties that may be liable for property damage and injuries resulting from a hydroplaning-related car accident:
- The driver: If the driver who hydroplaned was speeding at the time of the accident, failed to maintain the vehicle’s tires, or engaged in any other unsafe driving behavior, he or she may be held liable for the accident.
- The manufacturer: If a motorist can prove that the vehicle manufacturer knowingly sold a vehicle with tires that did not meet safety standards, the manufacturer may be found liable for the accident.
- The municipal or state government: Cities and state governments have a responsibility to repair potholes, clear gutters, and repair road signs. If poorly maintained road conditions caused a hydroplaning hazard, the municipal or state government may be considered at fault for a hydroplaning accident.
What Damages am I Entitled for Injuries from a Hydroplaning Accident?
If a motorist is injured in a hydroplaning car accident, it is highly recommended that he or she consult with a catastrophic injury lawyer who has experience with these types of cases. Proving liability for a hydroplaning accident can be complex because there may be a number of parties who are potentially liable. A dedicated legal team will determine which parties are at fault and fight to secure the compensation that the client deserves, including past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Advocate for Victims of Hydroplaning Accidents
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a hydroplaning car accident, you are strongly urged to contact the Los Angeles car accident lawyers at ACTS Law at your earliest convenience. We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible for the accident and ensure that you receive the financial compensation you deserve. Our dedicated legal team will explain every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online.
With offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, we proudly serve clients throughout Southern California.