Aquaplaning: What you need to know to stay safe

What to do if your car aquaplanes

With the autumn season well and truly upon us, it’s time to put away the flipflops and sun dresses and dig out the puffy coats and wellies. But while you’re worrying about keeping your little ones warm and cold free this winter, you should take a second to consider road safety during the winter months.

The MET office is predicting record rainfall in the UK this winter, which is likely to cause an increase in road traffic accidents. It’s impossible to plan for everything, but being prepared could help you deal with one of the most common wet weather driving dangers, aquaplaning.

What is aquaplaning?

When roads are wet a layer of water can build up between the road and the tyres of your car causing them to lose traction on the road. This prevents you from accelerating, breaking, or steering effectively.

What to do if your car aquaplanes

What happens when you aquaplane?

Most aquaplaning only lasts a few seconds during which your steering will become very light and unresponsive, but assuming you are driving in a straight line, you will continue along the same path until you regain traction. If your car continues to aquaplane for more than a couple of seconds it’s possible that the back of your car will begin to drift to the side.

The most dangerous aquaplaning happens when the car is approaching or on a bend. If aquaplaning occurs at this point your car will not respond when you turn the steering wheel and may cause the car to come off the road.

How can you prevent aquaplaning?

There are a number of actions you can take to reduce your risk of aquaplaning.

  • Slow down. You are much more likely to aquaplane at higher speeds.
  • Avoid puddles. The surface tension of a puddle could cause your tyres to lose traction on the road.
  • Avoid sudden acceleration or breaking. Sudden changes in speed may cause your car to lose traction on the road.
  • Keep your tyres in good condition. You will be more likely to aquaplane if your tyres are worn or your tyre pressure is wrong.

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What would you do if your car aquaplaned

What to do if you start to aquaplane?

If your car does aquaplane this winter there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of an accident.

  • Don’t panic! The Hitchhikers Guide has this one right. Panicking is likely to make the situation worse.
  • Don’t attempt an emergency stop. Trying to stop the car suddenly will make it more difficult to regain control.
  • Don’t try to pull the car over. Unless you have very good reason not to, you should try to keep the car travelling in a straight line.
  • Slowly remove your food from the accelerator and apply the break. You should aim to reduce your speed very slowly.
  • Steer into the skid. If your car does start to drift, steer into the skid. The aim is to keep the wheels pointing in the direction the car is traveling. Be prepared to straighten up as soon as you regain traction on the road.

Aquaplaning can be scary. I’ve had personal experience of it a few times, both on straight roads and corners, but so long as you take extra care while driving in wet weather and keep your cool should the worse happen, you should remain safe this winter.

With winter here driving conditions can be treacherous, check out this post to find what to do if the wet weather causes you to aquaplane.

*This post was written in collaboration with Point S

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