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Auto Hydroplane

I bought a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport in January 2013 and in September 2013 I was involved in a single car accident which totally damaged my car. I was wondering if you could help me understand why I had the accident although I did not do anything wrong. Let me explain. I was driving on an Interstate Highway coming into Fort Worth Texas about noon on a Saturday. It started raining but it did not continue. I was in the far left lane going 55 miles an hour when all of a sudden my car turned sharply to the left and I crashed into the brick retaining wall. The left front fender hit the wall first and then the left rear of the car hit the wall. I remember bouncing off the wall and then being hit by another vehicle and eventually I slid in circles toward the opposite side of the road where I came to a stop. I was hospitalized due to my injuries and now all is well. Now though I just do not understand why all of a sudden my car took that sharp turn and went right into that brick wall. The body shop said my car was beyond repairs because the frame had been bent severely.
I do not smoke or drink any alcohol so that was not a factor; neither was vehicle speed. There were no puddles of water on the road and all I could think about afterward was that my car did hydroplane. Still I was wondering if the car computer, sensor or whatever it may have–if some part could have malfunction and caused my steering to malfunction?
I have a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport now but when I am driving on the local streets here in Dallas and I am in the left lane next to the retaining dividing wall, I keep thinking that my car my take another left and I will run into the wall again.
Any advise you have will be appreciated. Thank you very much.

Hydroplaning is typically when the tire will ride up on a puddle of water and completely lose traction. If it is a drive wheel, it will begin to spin under acceleration. If your braking, you will lose all effect of braking as the tire loses contact with the road. I don’t think hydroplaning is what you experienced. Typically a hydroplaning car just goes straight.

The other effect of hitting a puddle is similar to torque-steer. The effect of hitting the puddle is similar to hitting an object in the road. The drag of the puddle causes the wheel to turn towards that drag, effectively steering you into the puddle. Puddles can be very deceptive, and a couple of inches of depth are all that is needed to create significant drag, especially at highway speeds even at 55 mph. That’s what I think happened. It also happened to my wife many years ago, although it only resulted in a fender-bender accident she was able to drive away from, Thank God.

Another thing that may have made things worse: If it was a week or so before the quick rain, This is the most dangerous time to drive. Oils and fluids from cars and trucks build up on the road. When the rain first starts, or rains just a little before stopping, the water causes these oils and fluids to ‘ride’ on top of the water making the road very slippery. A good hard rain will wash this stuff off, but a small drizzle will make things scary.

First of all you should be in the far right lane. If you have a problem in the far right lane most of the time there is a shoulder for extra room. Did you have cruise control set? When rain or wet conditions it is best to not use cruise control.

Truth is that there’s absolutely no way any o f us can possibly know what happened. Accident investigations take trained investigators actually looking at all the physical evidence and often making physics calculations.

My wild guess is that you hydroplaned.

It might not be hydroplane, instead it could be that a little bit of rain mixed with oil and dirt to make the left, less traveled lane especially slick.

Was any investigation done? It would be rare on a car this young (though you didn’t mention mileage or the kind of driving you do), but sometimes things break - e.g. tie rods. A broken tie rod can cause a very sudden loss of steering control. But like mountainbike said, knowing would require a full investigation.

Otherwise I think BustedKnuckles pretty much covered the possible explanations. Though I also think hydroplaning is more possible than implied. If you really want a mess take one part hydroplane, add a small does of torque steer from some unevenness in the amount of water between the 4 wheels, and a fundamentally slippery surface - and well…

I would note that you say that you didn’t do anything wrong. I can go with that on the “willful action” end. I.e. you weren’t speeding or doing other dumb things. But if this was a road surface issue, and given what happened you were apparently going too fast for the conditions. That’s not a “willful” thing, but it may have been an error in judgment.

Like Volvo V70, I’m also wondering if you had the cruise control set.

And it’s a little off of the direct topic, but I also would mention that the far left lane of an interstate highway is a PASSING lane. If you’re not passing another vehicle you need to be on the right. Otherwise you are basically messing up the whole design of the roadway, you will end up disrupting the flow of traffic and make the whole roadway more dangerous for everyone. Partly because a lot of people really do understand that, the leftmost lane often gets the least use and tends to keep its slickness & wetness longer.

I was told early in my biker days to be extra careful at the beginning of a rain because the oil on the pavement will rise to the top and can be dangerous.Perhaps something along those lines was a contributing factor. Drive wheel spinout?

A gust of wind could have contributed to turning you around on a slick wet road. Being “essential Personnel”, I drove into work in a blizzard. My Pathfinder caught a gust of wind and blew the rear end sideways so fast I ended up with my front wheels in a ditch at the side of the road. Luckily the only thing damaged was the driving lights below the bumper. I also lucked out when a guy with a 4 wheel drive yanked me out of the ditch and I didn’t have to call a tow truck.

Bad luck; stuff happens. Let it go. I was on a surface screen in LA and there was a short sun shower. I was going about 20 to 25 MPH and went into an uncontrollable skid. Fortunately, I stopped without hitting anyone. Unfortunately, the guy behind me slid into me. We were all driving slowly, and others had similar problems on the same road at that time. About the only thing we could have done to avoid the problem was to be parked somewhere. You just can’t anticipate every condition that might exist.

An insurance company should be able to connect a special scanner to the computer and look at the input/output data that was recorded 10 seconds prior to the accident.


Nobody in Texas drives 55 in the left lane…Regardless of the weather…Please list your tire type and size installed on the wrecked vehicle…

A short rain can be worse than snow due to the oils on and in the road surface.
It’s hard for Joe Driver to remember this most times. You have to remind yourself many times during regular driving as you think through the ‘what ifs’.

My learning driver got the message the hard way once.
We were driving to dinner as a family and ‘‘that cloud over there’’ raind on the last two miles of our trip.
Since it had barely begun to rain after several days off, I purposely mentoned to her about this fact. She nodded, as if, and a few minutes later we parked in the lot and got out of the car…she in a big hurry , went bounding out on to the wet asphault and zzzzzzzzp down on her butt !!
" Oh, now I see what you mean" was all she dared say.

I reminded her “that’s what the car feels too, and you have to allow for that.”

My gut feeling vote is that you just got tangled up on oil loosened by rain and lost it. It happens.

I’ve been through Fort Worth countless times (even got a sister who lives there) and 55 in the left lane is unusual. It’s surprising that you weren’t flattened by other traffic because whenever I’ve been there everyone seemed to be pedal down no matter if it’s dark, raining, or rush hour.

jtsanders I lived in the LA area for 3 years in the mid 1970s. I am a native Oregonian. I could not believe what happened when it rained. The streets were a bit slick from the oils that leached out from Months of sun. Of course the LA drivers maintained their normal excessive speed. 35 in a 25, 45 in a 35, 55 in a 45, and warp 9 on an interstate! It was like Disney on ice! multiple rear enders, sliding through intersections, and cars in ditches. Thank you for vindicating my 20mph skid. September 15th 2001. I was on my way to National Guard. There had been moderate rain which had stopped following a dry spell. I was quite aware of the oil and water mix. My 1991 Jeep Cherokee had the option of 2WD, AWD, 4WD high or low. I chose AWD (quadratrac). I approached an intersection with a red light. Past the light the street made a 90% right turn. I was almost stopped when the light turned green. I turned right at 20mph or less. The Jeep suddenly slid out from under me! The Jeep was my first vehicle that was not rear wheel drive only. By sheer instinct I turned in the direction of the skid. That caused me to hit the 8 inch curb at a 45% angle. The impact was not severe but the Jeep ended up totaled due to the front driveshaft breaking the front differential and transfer case.

I think Texases and barky are on the right track. The most dangerous time is when the rain has just started after a period of no rain. The oils mixed with the water can make it very slick. Could have hit a little rut or something too that pulled the car but could have been worse.

For those who love doing detective work, I note 3 contradictions in the story:

  1. No puddles. I’m having a hard time imaging that shortly after a rain shower there aren’t at least a few puddles.

  2. If there were no puddles, there can’t be hydroplaning. So how did this become part of the narrative?

  3. As others have pointed out, 55 mph in the left lane in Texas?

And lastly I like the oil rising to the surface theory. I read a study that stated that some Texas highways have wet traction coefficients near what ice has.

Perhaps glynnharbin will return to elaborate and answer some questions. In the meantime, I’m going to go on a cruise control theory. The cruise control was on. The vehicle hit a spot with particularly compromised traction. As a result the speed dropped off a little, and the cruise control unit laid the hammer down. The front wheels spun that much more, one side suddenly picked up traction before the other - and bam. A sudden torque steer induced veer of the car. Of course, that can also happen under the driver’s foot rather than with the cruise control.

I think that the OP didn’t know what to call the skidding, and may not have understood what hydroplaning is.

Don’t know what caused the accident, but many owners have complained about steering problems with that car:

It seems like this is a new class of steering problems on cars with electric power steering. Other manufacturers have had similar complaints. This is why I would not buy a car with electric power steering.

Combine fluky EPS with wind and rain and it’s very easy to end up in the wall.

If you had a vehicle that put you into a wall and you do not think it was your fault why would you get the same thing again?