What is hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning happens when a vehicle slides uncontrollably on the wet surface of a road. This occurs when the water that normally flows between your tire treads instead remains between the tires and the street or highway, sometimes combining with oil or other slippery road deposits. During wet conditions, this layer of water can cause drivers to lose control, increasing the chances of hydroplane accidents.

How many inches of water can cause hydroplaning?

There's no specific amount of water that triggers hydroplaning. Depending on how fast you're traveling, the tread of your tires, and road conditions, even just a small amount of water can lead to hydroplaning.

What happens if hydroplaning causes a single-car accident?

In most single-car accidents, the driver is considered at fault. Collision coverage would pay for damage to your vehicle, less the cost of your deductible. If you're injured in the accident, medical payments coverage or personal injury protection (PIP) would pay for your medical bills. When weather-related factors such as hydroplaning cause a car accident, however, there may be situations when the driver is not at fault. These could include:

  • Manufacturer defects: If your tires or brakes failed because of faulty equipment, the car maker or a specific part manufacturer might be responsible.
  • Dangerous road conditions: If you hydroplane and crash because the road was in poor condition, and there wasn't proper signage indicating hazards, you may be able to file a claim against the city or town responsible for road maintenance.

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How to prevent hydroplaning

Here are some tips on how to avoid hydroplaning in the first place:

  • Slow down. On wet roads, cars can lose control, especially when traveling at speeds that are unsafe for dangerous road conditions. Slowing down can go a long way toward helping you better negotiate the road in front of you.
  • Check your tires often. Replace tires at regular intervals and check your tire pressure monthly. When improperly inflated, tires make less contact with the pavement and can be more prone to hydroplaning.
  • Minimize sharp turns. In wet conditions, sudden movements and changes in direction can increase the chances that your car will lose contact with the surface of the pavement.

What to do when hydroplaning

There are times when, despite your best efforts, you can't avoid hydroplaning. Follow these steps to help minimize the chances of getting into a car accident:

  • Turn the wheel in the same direction your car is going. Wait until the vehicle has recovered and you can feel the tires have traction again.
  • Don't hit the brakes. This can cause you to hydroplane even more. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator right away and ride out the skid if you can until your tires regain their traction.
  • Pull to the side of the road. After you have control of the vehicle, put on your hazard lights and assess the situation to determine if it's safe to resume driving. If you've hydroplaned and crashed, call the police, and wait for help to arrive.

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