Avoiding hydroplaning in your car

FRESNO, Calif.

This is what's left of Carle Hall's S.U.V. He lost control of it when he hydroplaned on an Arkansas highway two years ago. "When I lost control, I was floating on a skim of water. And then I was backwards, and the next thing I know I was upside-down in a ditch, coughing and choking from being underwater."

Amateur video captured the accident as it was happening. After hydroplaning, Carle's S.U.V. went into a slide and careened off the road, landing upside down in rushing water.

Jennifer Stockburger with Consumer Reports said, "Your tires physically lose contact with the road. They come in to some depth of water, and a wedge of water builds up in front of them. And they lift up, so there's actually tire, water, and then road."

The faster you drive through standing water, the greater your risk of hydroplaning. So it's critical to slow down but don't slam on the brakes!

The tires you buy can also make a big difference. That's What Consumer Reports' tests show. To simulate hydroplaning conditions, testers flood a portion of the track with three-eighths inch of water. They then drive at increasing speed until the tires lose touch with the pavement. In the most recent all-season-tire tests, many safely reached 55 mph. But with some, the vehicle hydroplanes at only 47 mph.

Not only do you have to buy good tires for your vehicles, you have to be sure to replace them before the tread is too worn. All you need is a quarter to check them. "If you insert it in the tread groove and can see the top of George's head, it's probably time to start considering shopping at least for new tires."

So slowing down on roads with standing water and making sure you have good, well-maintained tires can spare you from having a serious accident.

Consumer Reports says some of the tires that do the best in hydroplaning are the Michelin Hydroedge and the Continental Procontact Ecoplus.

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