Monday, May 3, 2010

Cruising Out of Control

The story below appeared in my email box recently and. as a Bucks County personal injury attorney,  I thought it was worth examining in more depth and passing along to others, slightly honed down:

A 36 year old female had an accident in which she totaled her car. It was raining, though not excessively, when her car suddenly began to hydro-plane and literally flew through the air. She was not seriously injured but very stunned at the sudden occurrence! When she explained to the highway patrolman what had happened he told her something that every driver should know:


She thought she was being cautious by setting the cruise control and maintaining a safe consistent speed in the rain. But the highway patrolman told her that if the cruise control is on when your car begins to hydro-plane and your tires lose contact with the pavement, your car will accelerate to a higher rate of speed making you take off like an airplane. She told the patrolman that was exactly what had occurred. The patrolman said this warning should be listed on the driver's seat sun-visor:


We tell our teenagers to set the cruise control and drive a safe speed, but we don't tell them to use the cruise control only when the pavement is dry.

MY THOUGHTS: When I took the time to do some online research, I discovered that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia advises motorists to turn off the cruise control in dark and wet conditions. The fact of the matter is that driving in the rain or snow or wet conditions already creates some hazard and risk of hydro-planing. The driver must be able to react quickly. Although the cruise control disengages rather quickly, it is still an extra step in regaining control. Until the cruise control is disengaged, the vehicle continues moving at the set speed. Immediate reduction of speed is critical.

The cruise control cannot anticipate changes in the road surface or the direction of the road, either of which can alert a watchful driver to slow down in anticipation of the big puddle ahead or the sharp curve in the road. Another consideration is the fact that when you have the cruise control on, you tend to cruise, literally...and many of us move our foot a little bit away from the brake pedal to give it a rest. All of these factors can lead to disaster if you begin to hydro-plane.

You can find anything online, which includes all sorts of sites dedicated to debunking hoaxes and scams. The email story above has been around for awhile and got around enough to be the subject of blog posts like the one in the link below. While the author attempts to debunk the story as to cruise control causing hydro-planing, he does admit that it is better not to use cruise control in rainy and wet road conditions. If you want to examine the whys and wherefores, there is a link in the article which explains the issues in more depth.

MY CONCLUSION: I will not engage the cruise control when I am traveling in rainy or wet conditions. In rainy conditions, the wheels of the car can spin along the surface of the water on the road. Also, the wetness can bring the oil embedded in the blacktop from exhaust fumes to the top of the road as well, making for more slippery conditions and catastrophic car accidents. Cruise control can just make you lose control!

Do you have questions?  You can find me at

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