Dallas Makes It Rain: How to Avoid Hydroplane Situations in Wet Weather
Ask a random American on the street about cities that are famous for wet weather and you’ll probably hear something about Seattle, or maybe Portland — but almost certainly not Dallas. And yet, Dallas/Fort Worth residents know all too well that their region unleashes sudden downpours that would send Pacific Northwesterners running for shelter.
In fact, Dallas/Fort Worth had the wettest year in the area’s history in 2015, accumulating 62.61 inches of rain. (In comparison, Seattle only received 44.83 inches of rain during that same year.) Dallas also holds a well-deserved reputation for unpredictable and violent thunderstorms. Often, an entire month’s rainfall will come from a single storm system.
All that rain can make for hazardous driving conditions in Dallas, which inevitably leads to accidents. One of the most feared situations in wet-weather driving involves “hydroplaning,” in which a car’s tires “surf” along a cushion of water creating a zero-traction situation. Hydroplaning is a phenomenon that many drivers have heard about, but that relatively few have experienced or know how to handle.
What Is Hydroplaning and How Can You Avoid It?
Hydroplaning, also sometimes called aquaplaning, involves some interesting physics, but the basic idea is simple: it happens when a car tire hits a mass of water (like a large puddle) at a relatively high speed. If the car is going too fast for all the water to displace from between the tire and the pavement, your tire (or tires) wind up gliding on a layer of water that’s “stuck” underneath.
Many physical factors affect how likely your car is to hydroplane. Not all of them are under your control, but you can follow some important guidelines to make a hydroplane situation less likely:
- Keep your tires properly inflated. Underinflated tires are more likely to hydroplane.
- Rotate and replace your tires as needed. Tire manufacturers design tread patterns to help prevent hydroplaning, but this advantage is lost if the tread patterns are worn out.
- Drive slower in wet conditions. The faster you’re going when your tire or tires hit a water surface, the more likely you are to cause a hydroplane situation.
- Avoid large puddles and standing water. You’ll never hydroplane if you can simply steer around water hazards in the first place, but remain cognizant of other traffic.
- Don’t use your cruise control in wet weather. Not only is cruise control likely to make you drive too fast for conditions, but a car with cruise control engaged might interpret the loss of tire traction in a hydroplane as a deceleration and speed up to compensate, which can build even more water under the tires.
- Try to stay in the center lanes in wet weather. Roads are curved to allow water to drain toward the side of the road, so the outer lanes tend to accumulate puddles more often.
If you do find yourself in a hydroplane situation, it’s important to not panic. Avoid braking hard, accelerating, or turning the wheel sharply. Since your wheels aren’t in contact with the pavement, these measures won’t help, and can cause a spinout if your tires are locked or in the wrong position when they do grip the road again. Instead, stay lightly on the accelerator, look for open space, and steer gently in that direction.
Legal Recourse for Bad Weather Accidents
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident in wet weather, you may be wondering how the weather affects an injury claim. The major factor in determining liability in an accident is negligence under the law, which is a question of whether the driver was exercising a reasonable degree of caution in respect to the circumstances, as required by law. Driving at the posted speed limit with cruise control on might be a perfectly reasonable behavior on a sunny afternoon, but a driver doing this in extreme weather can could be considered negligent.
While poor weather conditions may mitigate the liability of a driver who was driving responsibly and got into an accident because of extreme conditions, it doesn’t provide an automatic excuse for negligent drivers. The bottom line is that bad weather is no excuse for bad driving, and negligent behavior translates to liability under the law – rain or shine.
Call the Offices of Hossley & Embry Today
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, call the law offices of Hossley & Embry today. Our attorneys specialize in personal injury cases and are ready to use their wealth of experience and shared resources to investigate your case to get you the compensation you deserve. Call our offices toll-free at (866) 522-9265 or fill out our online form to get a free confidential case evaluation today.
2015 rainfall. (2015). Seattle Weather Blog. Retrieved from http://www.seattleweatherblog.com/rain-stats/rainfall-2015/
How do weather events impact roads? (n.d.). Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved from http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/weather/q1_roadimpact.htm
Hydroplaning basics: Why it occurs and how you can avoid it. (n.d.). SafeMotorist.com. Retrieved from http://www.safemotorist.com/articles/hydroplaning_basics.aspx
Robbins, C. (2015, November 27). DFW: 2015 is the wettest year on record for Dallas/Fort Worth. iWeatherNet. Retrieved from http://www.iweathernet.com/dallas-fort-worth/dfw-2015-is-the-wettest-year-on-record-for-dallas-fort-worth
What to do if you hydroplane. (n.d.). DefensiveDriving.com. Retrieved from https://www.defensivedriving.com/safe-driver-resources/what-to-do-if-you-hydroplane/