VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

What drivers should know about hydroplaning

Hydroplaning is an ever-present threat when it rains in Florida. When there is too much water on the road for vehicles' tires to handle, the tires will push that water underneath them. The thin layer of water that develops between the tires and road will cause the tires to lose traction. They are, in effect, floating above the road.

Vehicles can slide or skid uncontrollably as a result, leading to sometimes serious crashes. Drivers can largely avoid hydroplaning, though, if they slow down and avoid large puddles. They especially want to be careful during the first 10 minutes of rainfall; this is the most dangerous period because the water immediately mixes with the oil residues on the road and creates a slippery surface. After this, the residues start to be washed away.

Cautious driving won't always prevent hydroplaning, though, in which case drivers should consider these four steps. First, they must never apply the brakes, as this can cause the vehicle to skid. Without oversteering, they should then turn in the direction that the rear is heading; this is called turning into the slide.

The third step is to simply wait for the vehicle to reposition itself so that is aligned with the road. Once they have gained control again, drivers can pull over and assess the damage, if any.

There are times when hydroplaning can be blamed on a driver's negligence: for example, having tires with a shallow tread depth. When negligence causes an auto accident, the other side could file a claim. Under Florida's pure comparative negligence rule, victims who contribute a certain percentage to an accident will have their damages lowered by that same percentage. A lawyer could assist by having third parties investigate the crash and by negotiating for a fair settlement. A successful claim can cover vehicle damage, medical bills and more.

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