Aquaplaning becomes a serious risk for Irish drivers during the winter and early spring. What can you do to keep yourself and your passengers safe on the road? Above all, try not to panic when your car is aquaplaning. You’ll need a cool head to manoeuvre to safety.

Aquaplaning: an introduction

Driving in the rain can be risky if you head out unprepared. If your tyres are low on tread, or if the rain’s been particularly heavy, your car may lose its grip on the road and aquaplane.

To aquaplane, the rain must be present enough for a barrier to form between your tyres and the road. When your car aquaplanes, it’ll be significantly more difficult than usual to steer, and you may find yourself sliding off of the road and into a ditch.

It’s not just rain, though, that can cause your car to aquaplane. Black ice prevents your tyres from making contact with the road and can send you spinning if you haven’t kitted your car out with the appropriate tyres.

What to do when your car aquaplanes

If your car starts to drift off the road, you need to stay calm. Braking or trying to force your way out of the slide will only make the drift worse. Instead, remember what kind of car you’re driving in. If your vehicle has front wheel drive, you’ll need to pick a destination on the road and coax your car in that direction by pressing gently on the accelerator.

The slide shouldn’t last long, especially if your car comes equipped with an ABS. Make sure to check the road, though, for other drivers – the last thing you want to do is compromise another driver’s road safety.

Comparatively, if you’re driving in a vehicle with rear-wheel drive that has an ABS, you need to keep your foot away from the accelerator. Instead, pick an empty spot on the side of the road and coast in that direction. Slowly take your foot away from the accelerator. Ideally, you’ll feel your tyres come back into contact with the road after a second or two, and your car won’t come to a complete stop. 

However, if you do end up at a stand-still, you’ll need to gently coax your car back onto the road. If you find you’re stuck, turn on your emergency lights and reach out to the local authorities as soon as you can.

Aquaplaning and tyre shopping: what to look for

To avoid aquaplaning, or at least improve your control on the road, you’ll need to keep an eye out for well-treaded tyres the next time you go to the shop. Winter tyres, in particular, help you remain in control of your car when rain and snow make it more difficult to drive. 

Ideally, you’ll want to work with tyres that have a water channel designed and deliberate tread protection, as these tyres will have more surface area and better remain in contact with the road.

Some of the best tyres for the winter and rainy seasons include:

Note that the tyres mentioned here are listed as all-season tyres, not just winter tyres. While winter tyres are designed with more dangerous roads in mind, all-season tyres can still include features that’ll keep you safe on a slick road.

Whether you’re planning spring road trips in Ireland or just driving in the winter, you’ll need to prep your car in case of an aquaplaning incident. Pick out a pair of seasonal tyres with deep tread and replace your tyres if you’ve had them for too long. When you take care of your car, you’ll stay safer on the roadways.