Hurricane Matthew – What Do You Do If Your Car Hydroplanes? (And Other Road Hazard Tips)

If Hurricane Matthew sets its eye near North Carolina, the Category 3 storm is likely to cause quite a wave of car accidents if history is any guide.

Driving in heavy rain, high winds, or any type of inclement weather means you should take extra precautions for everyone’s safety – including your own.

Have an Evacuation Plan

The most important thing is to have an evacuation plan – especially if you are along the coast or in low-lying areas. If the state issues evacuations, heed them.

If you do get caught in hazardous road conditions, here are some tips to help you and others try to stay safe on slick, flooded, and windy roads.

Tips to Help You Drive Safer Despite Hurricane Matthew

Driving in Heavy Rain

  • Do not use cruise control When you are not in cruise control and you lift your foot off the gas to brake, the front of your car starts to dip a bit, transferring some weight to the front. This gives the front tires more traction. In cruise control, the car doesn’t dip when you brake. Instead the speed remains constant so you lose that early weight transfer.
  • Watch for splashing from potholes and pools of water If the roadway develops “ruts” where the heaviest traffic tracks, try to drive within them while remaining in your lane to avoid pools of water.
  • Never drive through high water – Cars can be swept off the road in only a foot of moving water, and roads covered by water can collapse. Driving through it may stall your engine, which can cause irreparable damage if you try to restart it. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route. If you cannot, The Weather Network has tips on how to proceed with caution.
  • And remember, never ever drive through water with a downed electrical line
  • Be aware of skidding and hydroplaning –  If you feel the car begin to skid, remain calm and steer in the direction where you want the car to go. Don’t slam on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.
  • When you hydroplane, your tires have very little to no contact with the road – Most hydroplane skids last for just a split second before your car regains traction. Waiting it out is the best way to handle the situation. Remain calm and don’t make sudden turns or motions. Just let off the gas and steer straight or slightly in the direction you are heading.  Keep a steady hand on the wheel and steer with small movements to correct your course.
  • Be aware that brakes can be affected by waterWet drum type brakes are especially prone to decreased stopping power after driving through deep water. Occasionally pump your brakes gently to help dry them and make sure they work.
  • Turn on the defroster if the windshield fogs

Driving in Windy Conditions

  • Expect gusts Take special care when driving through areas prone to strong winds, such as wide open areas, bridges, and overpasses.
  • Be diligent near larger vehicles  Tractor-trailers and recreational vehicles are more susceptible to high winds, and drivers may have difficulty staying in their lanes.
  • Keep a firm grip on the wheel Keep both hands on the wheel in case the wind begins to move your vehicle, especially if you are driving a large vehicle or towing a trailer. If the wind begins to move you, gently steer in the direction you want to go.

Driving Defensively in Hazardous Weather

  • Keep both hands on the wheel
  • Slow down  Rule of thumb: reduce your speed by 10 mph each time you increase your windshield wiper speed. Driving slower reduces your risk of losing contact with the road and can possibly help keep you from hydroplaning.
  • Stay 5 seconds behind the car in front of you Watch the car in front of you as it passes a fixed object, like a light or utility pole. Then count 5 seconds. If you reach your marker before 5 seconds, you may be too close for a sudden emergency.
  • Pay attention to the front, sides, and back of you Be aware of falling or flying debris, electrical wires, mudslides, puddles, swerving cars, and anything that may cause you to lose control of your car.
  • Turn off cell phones and the radio And don’t do anything that distracts you from driving. You need to be extra cautious and diligent while driving in slick windy conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights  Even in daylight. Besides, it’s the law in North Carolina. Remember: wipers on, lights on.

Prepare Your Car for a Hurricane

  • Tires should have proper inflation and the tread should have more than 2/32-inch An easy way to check the tread depth is to insert a penny into each groove with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head (including his hair), you need new tires. Consult your car manual to check for the proper tire pressure for the recommended tires. NHTSA offers many other tire safety facts.
  • Rotate your tires  Goodyear recommends you rotate them every 3,000 to 6,000 miles to help keep the tread life and even wear.
  • Use a rain repellent on your windshield, side windows, and mirrors to clear standing raindrops
  • Keep a car emergency kit At the very least, have a flashlight, window breaker tool, and seatbelt cutter or Swiss army knife. The National Hurricane Center offers more information on hurricane safety kits.

North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers

If you do find yourself in a situation where you were injured on slick hazardous roadways or in any condition because of someone else’s negligence, contact us.

  • Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer received 3.5 times3 more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own.
  • We are one of the largest personal injury law firms in North Carolina and have many resources to draw from.
  • We have recovered over $600 million2 total for more than 30,000 clients since 1997.
  • We have more than 150 staff members, including over 35 attorneys.
  • Several of our lawyers have achieved peer- and client-reviewed designations including Best Lawyers Best Lawyers in America 20174 and Lawyer of the Year 2017,5 Super Lawyers Rising Star 20166 and Super Lawyer 2016.7

(See for yourself some of the things clients have to say about us.)

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From North Carolina Lawyers

If you are injured in a car crash, we strongly urge you to contact us  or call 1-866-900-7078. We will evaluate your situation for FREE and let you know if we think we can help.


P.S. If you want your teen driver to learn hands-on defensive driving techniques under simulated hazardous conditions, check out this resource. There’s a non-profit organization in NC that offers instruction around NC and the U.S.


Insurance Research Council 1999.

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Super Lawyers undergo a rigorous, multiphase process which combines peer nominations with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made annually on a state-by-state basis. For information regarding standards for inclusion visit