5 Things To Do When You Hydroplane in a Car and Get in an Accident

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Hydroplaning in a car refers to a situation where the tires lose contact with the road due to a thin layer of water, which can cause you to lose control of the car and potentially cause serious injuries and property damage to yourself and others. You can avoid hydroplaning by making sure your tires are in good condition, driving slowly and avoiding travel when it’s wet out.

Read below to see what you should do if hydroplane in a car plus how car insurance will cover you if you get into a car accident.

What Does it Mean To Hydroplane in a Car?

Common during the snowy and rainy winter months, hydroplaning occurs when your car tires lose contact due to a thin layer of water. If it’s particularly wet, your tires may not displace the water fast enough, causing your vehicle to basically float on top of the water. 

When a car hydroplanes, the tires cannot grip the road surface and the car will begin to slide or skid. 

To avoid hydroplaning, it is recommended to reduce speed and increase following distance (driving further behind other drivers) when driving on wet roads. Tires that are in good condition, properly inflated and have good tread depth — the part of the tire that’s in contact with the road — can also help prevent hydroplaning since they are more effective at evacuating water from the contact patch. 

5 Things to Do if Your Car Hydroplanes

Follow the below tips to help you regain control of your car if it starts hydroplaning and what to do after you recover.

Don’t slam on the brakes. Instead, pump the brakes and allow the natural weight of your vehicle to help slow you down. If you have ABS (anti-lock brake systems) on your vehicle, you may be able to just push the brake pedal down. ABS helps regain traction in your tires.

Turn the wheel in the same direction your car is going. Doing this will help your tires realign, helping you regain control of your vehicle again.

Pull to the side of the road. It’s best to give yourself a minute to calm down and get the jitters out of your system before getting back on the road.

Ensure that you and your passengers are okay. If there are serious injuries, call 911 and wait for emergency services to arrive.

Get the coverage you need. Hydroplaning may cause you to reevaluate your auto insurance situation. Look into any additional coverage that may be beneficial should a major accident occur due to hydroplaning.

What Happens if Hydroplaning Causes an Accident?

If hydroplaning causes a car accident, there are several things that can happen:

Event

Description

Injuries

Depending on the severity of the hydroplane car accident, there may be injuries to the drivers and passengers involved. If anyone is injured, you should call the police and request medical attention.

Damage to Vehicles

Hydroplaning accidents can cause significant damage to the vehicles involved, especially if the vehicles collide at high speeds.

Police Involvement

The police should be contacted if a hydroplaning accident occurs, especially if there were injuries involved. They will create an official accident report, which can be handy when filing a car insurance claim.

Insurance Claims

If the accident caused injuries or damage to property, the drivers involved will likely file insurance claims. The insurance companies will then investigate the accident and determine who is liable for the damages.

Potential Legal Action

If the accident was caused by the negligence of another driver, the injured parties may choose to pursue legal action to seek compensation for their damages and injuries. Legal action may also occur if the hydroplaning was caused by a defective piece of vehicle equipment, such as new tires or a faulty speedometer.

Road Closure

Depending on the severity of the accident, the road may be closed temporarily to clear the scene and investigate the accident.

Does Car Insurance Cover Accidents if You Hydroplane?

If you get into a car accident caused by hydroplaning, several types of car insurance coverage may come into effect, depending on your policy and the specific circumstances of the accident.

  • Liability coverage: Pays for the damages and injuries that you cause to other people and their property in a hydroplaning accident.
  • Collision coverage: Pay for the damages to your own vehicle, even if you hydroplaned and were the at-fault driver. 
  • Medical payments coverage (MedPay): Pay for your medical expenses if you are injured in a hydroplaning accident.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): PIP provides the same coverage as Medpay plus loss of income if you’re unable to work due to injuries. PIP may be required if you live in a no-fault state, like Florida, Hawaii, Kansas or New York.
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What Should You Do if You Get in an Accident While Hydroplaning?

If you get in a car accident while hydroplaning, it is important to remain calm and follow these steps to ensure your safety:

  1. Pull over to a safe location: If possible, safely steer your vehicle to the shoulder of the road or a nearby parking lot. Turn on your hazard lights to warn others on the road.
  2. Check for injuries: If anyone is injured — whether it’s yourself, the other driver or your passenger — call 911 immediately and wait for emergency services to arrive.
  3. Call the police: Even if there are no injuries, it is important to call the police and report the accident. They will create an official accident report, which can be useful when filing an insurance claim.
  4. Exchange information: Get the contact and insurance information from the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Also, take pictures of the damage to both cars and the accident scene, if you can.
  5. Notify your insurance company: Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible to report the accident. They will guide you through the claims process and answer questions you may have.
  6. Seek legal advice: If you believe the accident was caused by the negligence of another party — a tire shop sold you a bad tire, for instance — it may be beneficial to seek legal advice. A lawyer can help you navigate the process of getting compensation for your injuries and damages.

How To Prevent Your Car From Hydroplaning

There are several steps that can be taken to prevent hydroplaning while driving. By following these tips and being aware of the road conditions, you can reduce your risk of hydroplaning and increase your chances of a safe journey:

  1. Slow down: Hydroplaning is more likely to occur at high speeds, so it is important to slow down when driving on wet or dangerous roads. This allows the tires more time to displace the water and maintain contact with the road surface.
  2. Maintain proper tire inflation and tread depth: Properly inflated tires with good tread depth are more effective at evacuating water from the contact patch, which can help to reduce the risk of hydroplaning. Make sure to check your tire pressure regularly, and replace your tires if the tread depth becomes too low.
  3. Avoid sudden movements: Sudden movements such as sudden braking, sharp turning or acceleration can cause a vehicle to lose traction and hydroplane. When driving on wet roads, it is important to make smooth and gradual movements with the steering wheel and pedals.
  4. Avoid standing water: If you can avoid driving through standing water, do so. Standing water can conceal potholes or other hazards, and it can also cause your vehicle to lose traction and hydroplane.
  5. Be aware of the weather forecast: If you know that you will be driving in heavy rain, plan your route accordingly and drive with extra caution or, if possible, not at all.

what causes hydroplaning infographic

FAQs

Who is at fault if you hydroplane and hit another car?

The driver who hydroplaned is typically the at-fault driver if they were hydroplaned and caused a car accident. Collision coverage and Medpay/PIP, if you have it, will pay for your repair and medical bills.

Does liability insurance cover hydroplaning?

Liability insurance will cover the injuries and damages of other drivers should your car cause an accident after it hydroplanes. Ask your provider about additional coverage so you’re not stuck paying for your injuries or property damage out of your own pocket.

At what speed do you hydroplane?

Hydroplaning typically occurs when your vehicle reaches or exceeds 30 mph.

Key Takeaways

  • Hydroplaning occurs when a thin layer of water on the road causes the tires to lose contact with the surface, resulting in the vehicle sliding or skidding.
  • To prevent hydroplaning, it is recommended to reduce speed and increase following distance when driving on wet roads, maintain proper tire inflation and tread depth, avoid sudden movements, avoid standing water and be aware of the weather forecast.
  • Auto insurance generally covers accidents that you cause as a result of hydroplaning.

Sources:

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