Most UK drivers experience aquaplaning at some point - particularly if they live in western areas where rainfall is higher. The experience often produces a sudden surge of adrenaline as you realise you've lost control of your vehicle.

Thankfully, most instances of aquaplaning - while unsettling - are brief and don't put anyone in danger. But on a very flooded road aquaplaning can cause you to lose control, potentially resulting in a collision with another vehicle, street furniture or pedestrians.

With these risks in mind, it’s critical to understand aquaplaning - what it is, and how to minimise the chances of it happening to you.

What is aquaplaning?

Aquaplaning occurs when you're driving on a wet surface and your tyres are unable to displace the rainwater. Water collects at the front of the tyre, essentially lifting the tyre up - breaking contact with the road surface. And of course, without tyre-road contact, you are unable to control your vehicle.

 

Why does aquaplaning happen?

Aquaplaning often occurs when tyre treads are excessively worn, making the tyre less effective at displaying water on the road.

Conversely, a car with newer, less worn tyres is likely to hold its grip much better.

 

Ineffectual braking and steering

With a layer of water between a car's tyres and the road surface, braking and steering will be substantially reduced - or completely ineffectual.

What to do if you aquaplane...
  • Try to remain calm and focus on the road ahead
  • Don't hit the brakes or make big, sudden steering movements, as doing either could give you even less control
  • If you do need to brake, do so very gently and gradually
  • Grip the steering wheel tightly and in the direction you wish to go; only make very small steering movements
  • Ease off the accelerator pedal gently, until you have full control of the vehicle once again

 

Tips to avoid aquaplaning in the first place
  1. Check your tyres' tread depth. The legal minimum is 1.6mm but it’s much safer to have 3mm; this will give you better grip and dramatically reduce stopping distances.
  2. If the road is wet from recent rainfall or it's just started raining, turn off your cruise control, because this system can make maintaining a constant speed more difficult. (NB: using cruise control is also not advisable in snow, hail, sleet or ice.)

As soon you notice the oncoming road is wet or that it has started raining, reduce your speed; you'll have a much better chance of regaining control compared to travelling fast