Hydroplaning Accidents in Summer Downpours
Cars, Trucks and Motorcycles encounter standing water on area roads
At this peak of the summer rainy season here in Southwest Florida, the strength and duration of our afternoon rain showers can cause a severe hazard to drivers on the road. With so much rain coming down in such a short period of time, standing water or large puddles can accumulate on the road surface. If a vehicle hits the puddle, hydroplaning – sometimes called aquaplaning – can happen, causing the car, truck or motorcycle to lose control and leave the roadway.
Hydroplaning, or the hydroplaning drag caused by large amounts of water being displaced up and under the vehicle, can cause serious accidents. There are several causes of hydroplaning accidents, from poorly designed roads and drainage systems, inferior constructed or paved roads, improperly or under-maintained roads, and a number of other factors. For those driving on roads where a large accumulation of standing water has formed, there are also several things that can result in a hydroplaning accident. Traveling too fast for the wet conditions, unsafe tire tread depth and poor or improper reaction by the driver can cause a vehicle to leave the roadway.
If you are driving on unsafe tires with too little tread depth, your tires will not channel the water away from the vehicle adequately, and you increase your chances of sliding, or hydroplaning, on top of the water. Another cause of hydroplaning accidents is driving in the rain with your cruise control activated. If you've noticed while driving your car with the cruise on, it will automatically increase in speed when you encounter a gradual rise in the roadway, like a small incline. This same thing happens when your car encounters a large amount of standing water on the road – it will accelerate, which can cause the tires in a front-wheel drive vehicle to lose contact with the road surface, resulting in a crash. Driving with your cruise control on can give you a false sense of security when behind the wheel, and increase your reaction time when attempting to decelerate or apply brake pressure. It is recommended to never use your cruise control when driving in rainy conditions.
Factors Involved in Hydroplaning Accidents
- Inadequate tire tread depth
- Under-inflated tires
- Depth of water on roadway
- Vehicle speed
- Duration of time the vehicle is travelling through the standing water
- Steering direction, reaction and over-reaction by the driver
- Aggressive application of brake pressure
- Uneven road surface
- Potholes, cracked or damaged road surface
- Tire width
- Vehicle weight
Basically, a lighter vehicle with wider tires with inadequate tread is more likely to hydroplane than a heavier car or truck with properly-inflated tires with the correct tread depth. And even though speeding or driving too fast for rainy conditions can be a factor in causing a hydroplane accident, a car can hydroplane even at lower speeds.
Hydroplaning Accidents: How To Avoid Them
- Lower your speed in unsafe rainy conditions
- Stay focused on the road ahead, watching for standing water
- Watch the vehicles in front of you to see if they encounter standing water
- Do not tailgate the car in front of you – increase the distance between you and other vehicles
- Always ensure your tires have adequate tire tread depth, and are properly inflated
- On roads with two lanes in the same direction, try to travel on the inside-most lane. (Most roads are crowned with the higher lane being on the inside)
- Turn off cruise control in rainy conditions
- Purchase the correct type of tire for good rain-channeling tread design
Our torrential summer rains can cause standing water on just about all types of roads in Southwest Florida. From the low-lying streets in Cape Coral to the old, poorly paved roads out in rural areas like LaBelle and Glades County, uneven and dilapidated surfaces will result in large areas of standing water and flooded roads. If you find yourself hydroplaning while driving, here's how to handle it:
- Lift your foot off the gas pedal
- Do NOT apply heavy brake pressure – tap your brakes when you feel your tires regain contact with the road surface
- Grip the wheel firmly
- Keep the steering wheel straight – do not try to maneuver the car while you are hydroplaning
Serious Injury Resulting from a Hydroplaning Accident – What Do You Do?
As personal injury lawyers in Southwest Florida, we see the results of serious injuries involving hydroplaning crashes all the time. In many cases, it is not just the driver of a hydroplaning car, truck or motorcycle who suffers an injury. A car that hydroplanes and loses control will often strike one or more other vehicles, or a fixed structure. This can result in multiple people suffering serious injuries, or even the loss of life.
In the event of sustaining a serious personal injury in a hydroplaning accident, there are several avenues of legal action you may consider. An aggressive and skilled personal injury attorney can determine if you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries and property damage. Research and investigation of the circumstances surrounding the crash could lead to these potential legal strategies:
- Determine if the road has been properly maintained and correctly resurfaced as needed
- Determine if the road was properly designed and constructed
- Determine if there were adequate and properly maintained drainage systems near the roadway, like gutters, drains or swales
- Determine if the vehicle that caused the accident had properly inflated tires with adequate tread depth
- If the crash was caused by a commercial vehicle, determine if the vehicle underwent adequate and timely safety maintenance
- Determine if the vehicle's driver was travelling too fast for the conditions
- Determine if the vehicle's driver was working at the time of the crash, and driving a vehicle owned by their employer
- Determine if the driver's employer was negligent in allowing a company-owned vehicle with improper tire tread depth or incorrectly inflated tires to be driven
- Determine if the driver of a larger commercial vehicle was properly trained in the vehicle's operation
This summer, please use extra caution when you find yourself driving in rain. Just recently, three people died in an accident caused by a hydroplaning vehicle in Glades County. Give yourself some extra time to get where you are going, stay focused on the road ahead of you and watch for standing water. You never know how deep it is, or if it will cause your tires to hydroplane across the wet surface. Slow down, wear your seatbelt and always turn your lights on while driving in the rain – it's the law in Florida.
If you've suffered a serious injury in any type of motor vehicle accident, we can help. It does not cost a thing to sit down and speak with our personal injury lawyers to review your situation and determine if you may have a case for financial compensation to pay for your medical care and treatment. You won't pay us anything unless we are successful in obtaining a favorable settlement or jury verdict.
To speak to one of our attorneys, just call 239-461-5508, or complete this form and an attorney will contact you immediately.