April showers bring May flowers. But, for Texans, they bring hydroplaning mayhem as well as vehicle drownings. In fact, Texas leads the Nation in vehicle drownings. Kind of sad, isn’t it? That they talk about the vehicle drowning and not the people in it??…Cold. Apparently, it’s mostly pick-up trucks. Really??In Texas??Go figure.
If you live in Texas, you may have noticed that, when it rains, they change those electronic signs on the freeway. You know, the ones they use for traffic updates as well as for Amber Alerts for missing children or missing elderly (there was one last week that read “Missing Elderly from New York City”…I thought, “Damn! Those old people can really hitchhike … if they think they’ve made it all the way down here to Texas”).
So now, when it’s raining, they change those signs to read TURN AROUND AND DON’T DROWN. It’s a catchy little jingle to make it easy to remember when it’s raining and you see water covering the road. Don’t just plow through it. “Turn Around and Don’t Drown”. They come out with these poetic little catch-phrases, like “Click It Or Ticket” for seat belt laws. And, “Don’t Mess With Texas” for littering laws. You know, somewhere, there’s a guy sitting in a little room with a bottle of Jack Daniels and he’s paid to write all this poetic stuff. And the job probably comes with dental and a 401k…..I want that job!
TADD is a National Weather Service campaign to warn people of the hazards of walking or driving a vehicle through flood waters. Where does the false sense that “my heavy vehicle will keep me safe” come from? Perhaps from the false trust of the weight of the vehicle you drive. Your 3,000 lb or more vehicle will remain in contact with the road surface…that it is too heavy to float? Think about that for a moment. Aircraft carriers weighing 97,000 tons float. Vehicles (and ships) float because of buoyancy. In fact, most cars can be swept away in 18-24 inches of moving water. Trucks and SUV’s do not fare much better with an additional 6-12 inches of clearance.
As for hydroplaning, it can occur at speeds as low as 30mph. Not even very fast. In fact, if you were driving any slower, you’d be in reverse. But it could be frightening if you’re doing, say, freeway speed. That’s why it’s important to remember to not use your cruise control when it’s raining. My sister, Bobbie Sue (I know, right??) has a new Mercedes with safety features you wouldn’t believe. It actually has a sensor that will not allow you to engage your cruise control when there’s precipitation. It also has a feature that will pull the car back into your lane if you start to drift off the road. I think they call that the DWI Designated Driver feature. By the way….you don’t really believe we actually call my sister Bobbie Sue, do you? She’s 13 years younger than me. We’ve always called her “Oops.”
Hydroplaning occurs when water gets trapped between the grooves in your tires and road. And then you find yourself waterskiing in your car (I hear if you can get it up on two wheels, you can slalom ski…they probably do that in JackAss The Movie 3D…I haven’t seen it yet).Some people panic and slam on the brakes when they begin to hydroplane. Not cool. The best thing to do…take your foot off the gas. Let the car naturally slow down on its own (and then change your pants). The trapped water will then dissipate out from between the tires and the road. So now, your tires are connecting with the pavement. Instead of riding up on top of the water…like Jesus.
Here’s a good mental checklist during rainy season…
- Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio, or your favorite news source for vital weather related information.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
- If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away. A foot of water will float many vehicles. And two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
- Do not use your cruise control feature when driving in rainy conditions.
- Keep reading this blog every week…(I just threw that in)
Until next week…be safe…don’t take any bone-headed chances when driving (or dating)….try to preserve your life, so you remain on this Earth about as long as the styro cup you just threw out the window of your car.
( Daun Thompson is a comedienne, writer, artist and lightning rod of reality )