There are few driving experiences more frightening than losing control of your car. While many drivers fear icy road conditions for just this reason, rain-soaked roads can sometimes prove to be even worse.
Why? Hydroplaning. It’s among the chief dangers created by wet driving conditions. It occurs when your tires lose contact with the surface of the road and instead ride a film of water on top of the road’s surface. The result? A terrifying feeling of helplessness as you lose control of your steering and braking capabilities.
To Avoid Hydroplaning, Play It S.A.F.E.
Remembering these S.A.F.E. tips can help you avoid hydroplaning and maintain better control while driving on wet or damp roads.
S – Slow down. You don’t have to be driving especially fast to create the ideal conditions for hydroplaning. Any speed above 35 miles per hour could put you at risk. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be raining—“wet” can mean roads that are merely damp.
A – Allow more distance between cars. In normal driving conditions, it’s best to leave a three- or four-second gap between you and the car immediately in front of you. In rainy and wet conditions, extend that length of time to give yourself more room to stop, just in case the road starts to feel like a slip ‘n slide.
F – Follow in the tracks of the vehicle in front of you. One of the reasons even damp roads can create dangerous conditions for drivers is because just a little water is enough to bring oil and other residues to the road’s surface. That makes it more difficult for your tires to maintain safe traction with the road. Following in the tracks of the vehicle in front of you means some of that slippery cocktail is being wicked away before your tires get there, leaving you with a drier (and safer) path.
E – Examine your tires. In addition to your braking system, your tires are one of your car’s most important safety features. Properly inflated and rotated tires with good tread depth will perform much better on wet roads than under/over-inflated or worn tires. Worn tires, even ones that aren’t “worn out,” can be deadly on wet roads, says Consumer Reports, because the grooves aren’t deep enough to channel water out from beneath the tread. The result? Hydroplaning.
Even the best drivers can find themselves in the middle of a very slippery situation, especially when it’s raining. Schedule an appointment at your local Firestone Complete Auto Care for a quick tire inspection, including a tread check, pressure check, and tire rotation. Taking care of your tires helps ensure that they can take care of you and do the job they were designed to do—come rain or shine.