© Jocelyn Turner - Amherst Daily News
Mechanic Kevin Pratt explains just how the treads on a tire sometimes let go when driving through heavy rain, causing a car to hydroplane.
AMHERST – It’s scary feeling your car drifting out of your control, sometimes towards the middle of the highway, sometimes speeding towards the ditch. It can be hard to keep a cool head when your vehicle is hydroplaning.
“A small skim of water gets between the tire and roadway, causing the vehicle to lose its grip,” said mechanic Kevin Pratt. “If there’s a small amount of water, it can mix with the oil and dirt on the road and cause the vehicle to slid. If there’s big puddles, the tires aren’t pushing the water out the way and pushes the car to one side or another.”
Any time there is any kind of accumulation of water on the roadways, the risk of an accident automatically increases.
“Unfortunately, we’ve gone to several here in Cumberland County involving hydroplaning,” he said. “Should you travel at the posted speed limit when there’s water accumulated on the high way? No. It’s like snow and slush, you need to slow down. You need to reduce your speed and drive accordingly.”
Hutchinson said many drivers choose to drive above the posted speed limit, regardless of the weather and road conditions.
“You don’t have to be speeding to hydroplane. You could be going below 100 km/h on the 104 High way and hit a puddle of water and totally lose control of your vehicle.”
If a driver does come upon wet patch of highway and finds themselves hydroplaning, Hutchinson said do not panic and do not pull on the wheel abruptly.
“That in turn can cause your vehicle to roll and slide off the highway. Unfortunately, we’ve had it result in fatalities and serious injuries.”
Cruise control is something else Hutchinson cautions drivers against using in poor weather conditions. He said by having cruise control on, drivers will have a slower reaction time.
Pratt said many drivers wait too long before changing their tires. With dull tires, drivers are more likely to find themselves in an accident.
“I see it quite often,” he said. “People look at it as long as they can pass inspection, they’re going to drive it. You can hydroplane with new tires too, although it’s not as likely, but it can still happen. But, with a bald tire, there is so much more (risk) on a slippery road.”
Pratt said the best tires to have on your vehicle are directional tires.
“They have to go a certain way on the car and they have special treads designed to push the water out to the side. But, they are a bit more expensive.”
Hutchinson said the best thing for any driver to do when they are travelling in poor weather conditions is to slow down, but not many drivers are taking proper precautions.
“A couple of weeks ago, we had one collision that resulted in a fatality and then we were back here with a tractor trailer that went off (the road) due to hydroplaning. I know that day, I was on the side of the highway, motioning for people to slow down to warn them of the collision scene up ahead and I was appalled by the driving and total disregard some motorists had out there on the highway.”