It happened in an instant.
Driving on the highway on a Sunday evening, a brief rain shower had just ended. Seeing other cars do the same, I began accelerating up to the speed limit.
Suddenly, I sensed it. That dreadful feeling in the steering wheel that the tires have lost traction. In a split second, the realization dawns on me.
My car is hydroplaning.
Fortunately for me, a moment later as I tried to adjust, the wheels caught hold of the asphalt again, my car made a mild sputter and I was back in control.
Needless to say, the rest of the drive had me shook, causing my knuckles to turn white from gripping the steering wheel and nervously anticipating my tires to go again with the slightest brake or acceleration. When I finally arrived home, I wondered if I did everything right or if I was overly cautious.
The types of reactions to rainy weather on the road vary across the board. Some drivers are like I was and take the hyper-conservative route, while others drive on like it’s any normal day.
With spring and summer road trips ramping up, as well as more rainy days filling the calendar, there are a few helpful tips to be mindful of whenever roads get slick.
DO NOT USE CRUISE CONTROL
Hydroplaning is caused when tires lose their traction on the road. One of the primary causes in these instances is over-acceleration, which can occur if you turn on your cruise control.
Since the vehicle is set to go a certain mile per hour (mph) while in cruise control, it will do whatever it can to maintain its speed, which may lead to sudden bursts of acceleration. Additionally, reaction times tend to decrease since our foot is usually off the accelerator. That extra split second could make the difference in these types of scenarios.
While the feature is nice when you have a long stretch of dry highway in front you, it can put you at a dangerous risk in rainy conditions.
As mentioned earlier, reactions to rainy weather span across the spectrum, and the biggest hazards to be aware of are usually the fellow vehicles around you.
It cannot be predicted when another car may suddenly hit the brakes, or even start its own hydroplane. That volatility gives you only a fraction of a second to react and adjust accordingly. Be sure to give your vehicle enough space so that you may avoid having to slam your brakes or jerk your steering wheel to dodge a collision.
HOW FAST TO GO
According to Defensive Driving, a rule of thumb to follow is to decrease your speed by a third during wet conditions.
For example, if you are driving in rainy weather and the speed limit says 70 mph, then your adjusted speed should be 46 to 47 mph. Slowing down will help with keeping traction on your tires as well as decrease your stopping distance.
For more information, AAA has created a guide with helpful steps to take when driving in wet weather conditions.