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Cruise Control and Hydroplaning
(Safety Warning)
Netlore Archive:  Email claims that using cruise control when driving at high speeds on wet pavement could cause a car to hydroplane and result in a deadly accident

Description:  Email rumor
Status:  Contains valid safety info
Circulating since:  Nov 2002
Analysis:  See below
 


Email example contributed by C. Squyars, 15 Nov 2002:

Subject: Tip

You know, I do this all the time, but I won't anymore. Good advice below!!

Got the story from Bill Norris.

I had a wreck a couple of weeks ago and totaled our Lincoln Town Car. I hydroplaned on Hwy 135 between Gladewater & Kilgore, Texas. I was not hurt, just emotionally rattled! I know the Lord was with me.

I learned a lesson I'd like to pass on to you. You may know this already--but the highway patrolman told me that you should NEVER drive in the rain with your cruise control on. He said if you did and hydroplaned (which I did) that when your tires were off the road your car would accelerate to a high rate of speed (which it did). You don't have much, if any control when you hydroplane, but you are totally in the hands of God when the car accelerates. I took off like I was in an airplane. I'm so thankful I made it through that ordeal. Please pass the word around about not using cruise control when the pavement is wet or icy. The highway patrolman said this should be on the sun-visor with the warning about air-bags.

The only person I've found out who knew this (besides the patrolman) was a man who had a similar accident and totaled his car. This has made me wonder if this is not why so many of our young people are dying in accidents.

Be careful out there!


Comments:   As is usually the case with safety alerts circulating in the form of first-person narratives, we are unable to confirm that this exact incident really happened, but the warning is generally valid: Driving at high speeds on wet or icy pavement with the cruise control engaged could make it more difficult for the driver to regain control of the vehicle if it hydroplanes (skids) and therefore result in a deadly accident. This has been confirmed by sources ranging from insurance companies to state police to the National Automobile Dealers Association, which bluntly advises: "Never use cruise control when road conditions are slippery."

"Your cruise control does not know the difference in road surface types," explains South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Bock on his agency's Website. "This makes having it activated dangerous, because it will not allow you to slow down during a skid and you will continually accelerate. This does not allow you, the driver, to regain control of the vehicle."

The experts agree: If the highway is wet or icy, turn off your cruise control, otherwise you're putting your own and others' lives in danger.


  • Readers' Responses:  "This does not make any sense to me. I own four cars, all with cruise control, and all of them immediately disengage cruise control with the slightest tap of the brake." More...


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    Sources and further reading:

    Cruise Control and Bad Weather
    South Dakota Highway Patrol safety advisory

    Safe Driving Tips
    National Automobile Dealers Association

    Cruise Control Can Be Dangerous in Bad Weather
    KSL News, 1 December 2005

    Safety Tip is Moral of Texas Cyber Tale
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 24 Jan 2003


    Last updated: 12/05/05


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