Spring is the ideal time to put the most experienced driver at risk of accident and serious injury – even if they are using that simple, refined and most reliable of car accessories – cruise control. While useful in making long road trips more comfortable or turning it on to gain better control over highway speeds, experts agree cruise control should always be disabled once the rain starts trickling down. Even the lightest of rainfalls can mix with dirt, grease and oil on the road, creating a slippery surface that can trigger accelerating cruise controlled speeds, loss of car control and serious crashes. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are on average more than 950,000 automobile crashes each year due to wet pavement, resulting in approximately 4,700 deaths and 384,000 injuries.
Cruise Control May Cause Drivers to Lose Control
Since cruise control helps drivers average out at a consistent traveling speed, many drivers believe they have an extra protection from accidents. But really it is the opposite when you add rainy weather. When a motor vehicle loses traction over slippery pavement or in standing water, it can easily hydroplane and crash if the vehicle is set in cruise control. The cruise control panel can cause the vehicle to jolt forward and go faster than expected for the moments the tire’s tread are off the pavement and coasting along slippery roadways. The driver then loses control once the vehicle returns back to the pavement at a high speed locked in cruise.
If a vehicle starts to hydroplane (link to old blog here: http://www.wagnerreese.com/blog/car-accident/weekend-hydroplane-accident-in-columbus-kills-one/), the driver should let up on the gas slowly, hold the steering wheel with both hands and avoid quick braking. Braking while hydroplaning will throw a driver into a vicious skid (unless they are anti-lock brakes). If in a skid, operators can gain back control by steering in the direction of the slide, trying to keep the vehicle centered in the correct lane. Once back in control, it’s a good idea for a driver to safely pull over to regroup and gain confidence back before continuing to drive.
How to Safely Disengage Cruise Control in a Rainfall
Rain mixed with cruise control can create deadly driving conditions. It is best to turn it off before the roads are wet to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Motor vehicle operators should follow these easy rules if they find themselves in a situation where cruise control is engaged and weather unexpectedly becomes wet.
- As a precaution, watch the weather and as soon as it is raining or roads are wet, disable the cruise control.
- If rain suddenly approaches, turn off cruise control and slow the vehicle down by taking a foot off the gas pedal rather than applying the brakes quickly (unless you have anti-lock brakes).
- Turning off cruise control is as simple as applying the brake, pressing the ‘cancel’ or ‘on and off’ buttons, or pushing the clutch pedal in a manual transmission vehicle.
- Resume safe rain driving practices while keeping cruise control off until the destination is reached or roadways become dry.
In general, stay off the road during rain and if you have to drive, avoid using your cruise control options.
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