My Hydroplaning Horror Story

I just had the most frightening experience. Currently, a monster storm is sitting and spinning over Wisconsin (actually, much of the Great Lakes region). We are experiencing heavy rain, high winds and in some places, dense fog. Unfortunately, my young daughter and I had to venture out into the wicked weather. I have driven in similar conditions before and really didn’t think too much of my decision prior to leaving the house. I wish I had.

Traffic was moving at a pretty good clip considering the conditions. I was traveling in the right lane of a two-lane highway at the posted speed (65 mph). Just seven miles shy of our destination I hit what I guess was a film of standing water (everything is still a blur so I can only guess at the exact circumstances). I lost control of the car. It shimmied and slid into the next lane and continued to drift onto the rumble strips. The entire time I didn’t know if I should brake; ease up on the accelerator or just steer into the slide. I eventually regained control of the car and luckily didn’t collide into another vehicle. It was a nerve-wracking, heart-stopping incident, and the topic of this blog because I would hate for you to experience the same thing, especially if you are traveling with children.

Long story short, now that I have recovered from this ordeal I did some research and found the answers to some of my questions regarding hydroplaning. According to the National Safety Council, hydroplaning happens when “the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car’s weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires and the road.” This is apparently what happened to my car; it wasn’t in contact with the road, which caused it to drift and slide.

The National Safety Council has tips on how to avoid hydroplaning. They include, keeping your tires properly inflated, maintaining good tread on your tires, slowing down when roads are wet, and staying away from puddles. Also, if possible try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.

And here’s the best lesson I learned: “If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again.” Avoid slamming on your brakes. If you need to break, pump gently. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally.

Knowing all of this information is great. I just hope I can remember it the next time I find my car hydroplaning.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.