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Increased Wisconsin rainfall highlights how hydroplaning can cause serious car crashes

Whether you are a believer in climate change or not, certain facts cannot be ignored. Wisconsin, like so many states in the U.S., has had its share of increased precipitation. This means more wet roads more often, creating potentially serious hazards for cars, trucks and motorcycles.

With the melting snow, heavy rains and quick heavy downpours, the likelihood of excess water and standing puddles on our roads increases. A vehicle hitting high or standing water can cause hydroplaning, making it impossible for your tires to remain on the road for needed traction. In such scenarios when hydroplaning occurs, drivers lose control of their vehicle since they no longer have contact with the roadway surface.


Understanding hydroplaning

When large amounts of water are displaced under the wheels of a vehicle, hydroplaning can occur because the tread cannot scatter all the water. Water pressure in the front of the wheel pushes water under the tire, and the tire is then separated from the road surface by a thin film of water and loses traction. The result is loss of all steering, braking and power controls.


In some instances, just light rain can be the most dangerous of driving situations. For the first 10 minutes, light rain mixes with the accumulated oil residue on the road surface, creating dangerously slippery conditions that can cause vehicles, especially those traveling speeds in excess of 35 mph, to hydroplane. Unfortunately, too many motorists are not prepared for the suddenly slick roads, and accidents can occur.


Other causes of hydroplaning

Hydroplaning can occur for a number of reasons. Some examples include:

  • Poorly designed roads and drainage systems

  • Poorly constructed or paved roads

  • Improperly maintained roads

  • Traveling too fast for conditions

  • Worn tire treads

  • Using cruise control on wet roads

  • Under-inflated tires

  • Depth of water

  • Reaction of the driver (over-compensation)

  • Damaged road surface

  • Tire width

  • Vehicle weight

  • Uneven roadways

Tips to avoid hydroplaning

  • Check your tires regularly to make sure they are properly inflated.

  • When necessary, replace and rotate tires.

  • Slow down. The faster you drive, the harder it is for your tires to disperse the water underneath them.

  • If you can, avoid driving through puddles or standing water.

  • Water tends to pool on the outer lanes, so avoid them during rainfall.

  • With heavy precipitation, it’s safer to drive on the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.

  • Never use cruise control in wet weather. You need to be in total control of your vehicle.

  • Driving in a lower gear is safer when there are large amounts of water on the road.

  • Avoid hard braking, as this could cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Avoid making sharp turns for the same reason.

  • Be aware of and search for standing water.

  • Keep a safe distance from the car in front of you so that you can more safely take defensive driving measures.

  • Do not be distracted by any of your digital gadgets, and stay focused on the road in front of you.

Our best advice is to stay aware of changing weather conditions, slow down when rain begins, and keep your attention front and center on the road. Following these and our other tips will go a long way in preventing and controlling hydroplaning. Please, be safe out there!


If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions related to personal injury law, please call us at 920-725-8464, or toll free at 1-800-529-1552. Our personal injury consultations are always free.


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