Mrunal Manmay Dash

We all have experienced loss of steering control in wet roads when the vehicle skids off due to excessive braking or taking a sharp turn in high speed in slippery conditions. While we do take taking turns or applying breaks seriously while driving on skiddy roads, we seldom think twice before running over a puddle of water accumulated on road while going straight. As it turns out, it can be extremely dangerous. And the phenomenon is called hydroplaning or aquaplaning.

Before we go any further, let us understand what hydroplaning is. The phenomenon occurs when there is too much water on the road for your tyres to disperse, leading to a loss of traction that prevents the vehicle from responding to control inputs. It gives the sensation that your vehicle is drifting or floating; it could be likened to skidding across a sheet of ice.

One would think, they will splash some water out of the road and go through it. But at high speeds, the tyres do not get enough time to wade all the water from the surface. As a result, a wedge of water forms in front of the tyre and the car actually rides up on to that wedge losing contact with the road. The front of the car rises up and makes a lot of noise and soon the driver loses the ability to steer.

The good news is, there is something you could do to avoid being in such a precarious situation.

tyre tread helps whip water away. Experts say you need at least 1.6 mm of tread depth on your tyres to wade safely in puddles. As per tyre manufacturing major, Continental, "New tyres are capable of dispersing up to 30 liters of water a second at 80 kilometers per hour speed. But the depth of the tyre tread wears down over the course of regular usage. Consequently, tyres disperse significantly less water as the depth of the tyre tread decreases.

However, whether your tires are new or old, drivers should always slow down on wet road surfaces to reduce the risk of hydroplaning.

If it does occur– which is still possible depending on weather and road conditions that a driver cannot prevent – drivers are advised to immediately take their foot off the gas pedal and depress the clutch. Avoid moving the steering wheel or braking suddenly.

During rains, it is best to avoid cruise control; it may deliver a burst of power when the vehicle starts to aquaplane, exacerbating the problem rather than correcting it.

So, keep these in mind when you go out in monsoon and remember the cardinal rule-- never underestimate a small puddle of water. Please slow down.