Hydroplaning: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Glenn Honda | | Car Accidents

Have you ever felt your vehicle glide over a wet road like skating on water? That’s hydroplaning, a dangerous phenomenon where your tires lose contact with the road surface due to water flowing beneath them, making manual control challenging.

To prevent hydroplaning, especially in rainy conditions, ensure your tires are right for the job, properly inflated, and maintained regularly. Driving at lower speeds and in lower gear can also help your tires reconnect with the pavement faster, helping you regain control. Remember, sharp turns and sudden braking can worsen the situation, so keeping a straight line and avoiding sudden movements is paramount for your and other drivers’ safety.

If you are injured in a Honolulu crash caused by hydroplaning, call or contact a car accident attorney at Recovery Law Center to learn your legal options.

What Is Hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning, or aquaplaning, is a dangerous driving condition when a layer of water builds up between a vehicle’s tires and the road surface, leading to a loss of traction. This can prevent the vehicle from responding to control inputs such as steering, braking, or accelerating, effectively making it uncontrollable. 

Hydroplaning will likely happen during heavy rain or driving through standing water at higher speeds. Wet pavement creates an unpredictable hazard for even the best drivers. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 3,400 people are killed each year when it rains, and more than 357,300 are injured.

What Causes a Car to Hydroplane?

Several factors contribute to hydroplaning. These include:

  1. Water Depth: Hydroplaning occurs in deeper water because it’s harder for the tires to displace the water and maintain contact with the road surface.
  2. Speed: Driving at high speeds increases the risk of hydroplaning. The tires have less time to displace the water on the road surface as speed increases. Typically, hydroplaning can start at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour (about 56 kilometers per hour), but the risk increases significantly with higher speeds.
  3. Tire Conditions: Even the best tires require regular maintenance. A worn or underinflated tire tread is more sensitive to hydroplaning. New tires with deep treads are better at channeling water away from the tire’s surface, maintaining tire traction.
  4. Vehicle Weight: Lighter vehicles are more prone to hydroplaning because they have less downward force to help displace water under the tires.
  5. Road Conditions: Wet roads or standing water are more likely to cause vehicles to hydroplane, and certain types of pavement are also more slippery when wet.
  6. Driving Behavior: Losing control, such as sudden turns or hard braking, can increase the risk of hydroplaning. To maintain control, smooth, gradual movements of the steering wheel are recommended when driving in wet conditions.

What Happens If A Car Hits Me While Hydroplaning?

Initially, you might believe that no one can be held accountable if you were injured in an accident with a hydroplaning car. After all, no one can control the weather. However, that’s not true in Hawaii.

Hawaii is a no-fault state for auto insurance. If you’re involved in an accident where a car hits you while hydroplaning, several factors come into play regarding accountability and compensation, especially in a no-fault state like Hawaii.: 

Accountability in Hydroplaning Accidents

Even though hydroplaning is a weather-related event, drivers may still face liability for accidents caused by hydroplaning. This is because all drivers are expected to always maintain control of their vehicles at all times, which includes driving at a safe speed limit, maintaining proper tire tread depth, and avoiding sudden maneuvers in wet conditions. If a driver fails to take these precautions and hydroplanes, which results in an accident, they can be considered negligent. 

Compensation in Hawaii: No-Fault Insurance System

Hawaii operates under a no-fault auto insurance system, which affects how compensation is pursued following an accident, including those involving hydroplaning:

First Party Coverage

Under the no-fault system, if you’re injured in a collision, regardless of who is at fault, you’ll initially seek compensation through your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. This coverage is part of your auto insurance policy and is designed to cover medical expenses, lost earnings, and other losses up to your policy’s limits.

Limitations and Thresholds

Hawaii’s no-fault law has specific thresholds that, if exceeded, may allow you to step outside the no-fault system and pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. This typically involves serious injuries that meet specific medical or cost criteria.

Negligence and Liability

Even in a no-fault state, negligence still plays a crucial role. If the driver who hydroplaned was found negligent and your injuries surpass the no-fault threshold, you might have the option to file a lawsuit against the driver for additional compensation.

Even if you are partially at fault for a car accident in Hawaii, you can still collect compensation if you are not more at fault than the other party.

Tips to Avoid Hydroplaning

Hawaii’s rainy season creates more chances for water to collect on roadways, setting the stage for hydroplaning. Here are some suggestions to help you avoid this dangerous situation:

  1. Ensure your tires are properly inflated and not overly worn.
  2. Slow down when roads are wet. You can hydroplane in less than an inch of water.
  3. Stay away from puddles and standing water.
  4. Avoid driving in outer lanes where water accumulates.
  5. Drive in the tire tracks left by cars in front of you.
  6. Drive in a lower gear and don’t use cruise control.
  7. Avoid applying brakes hard.
  8. Refrain from making sharp or quick turns.

Contact Recovery Law Center in Honolulu Today!

Car accident Lawyer in Hawaii - Recovery Law Center

If you are in an unfortunate situation resulting from hydroplaning in Hawaii, knowing you have options is important. Recover Law Center in Honolulu assists those involved in car accidents, offering expert legal advice and support. Our experience can guide you through the process, ensuring you receive the compensation and support you deserve.

Schedule a consultation with a car accident attorney at Recover Law Center to understand your rights and the steps you can take toward recovery.

Glenn T. Honda

For over 29 years, attorney Glenn Honda has helped people injured in accidents throughout Hawaii get the best outcome for their case, whether it’s maximizing their settlement, or balancing costs and risks vs. putting the whole experience behind them. As the founding attorney of the Recovery Law Center, he is passionate about helping his clients with their physical, emotional and financial recovery. Mr. Honda will fight to get you coverage for your medical bills, lost wages, damaged property and other costs related to your accident.

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