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Cruise Control Hazards
The Risks of Aquaplaning
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It's nice to have a car fitted with a cruise control but using this in the wet can have lethal consequences.

Cruise control seeks to keep your car running at the same speed all the time. It's usage can make driving a little easier on long trips when traffic conditions are light. But, if the weather changes and the road surface becomes slippery, you could easily lose control of the car.

We have all heard about aquaplaning which typically happens when you have to brake hard in the wet and your tyres fail to grip the road. Your wheels can easily slide along on a thin film of water which builds up and you lose all grip on the road surface.

This phenomenon is often caused by hard braking and is one of the things that can be prevented by anti-lock braking systems (ABS) which work to prevent wheels from locking and help you to retain steering control whilst braking hard. However, ABS may be of little use in overcoming the cruise control hazard.

Suppose you are driving along with your cruise control set to 70 mph and you run into a heavy shower. Should your tyres begin to lose traction e.g. on a poor surface or simply because of the heavy volume of water on the surface, your car may begin to aquaplane.

Suppose then that the loss of traction begins to make your car's wheels turn at a speed that is not consistent with 70 mph. The cruise control could easily kick in and attempt to accelerate your car to a faster speed, even though you may already be doing 70 mph. Your car would then apply power to the accelerator thinking, maybe, that you are slowing down because of a hill. It could be like putting your foot flat to the floor on the accelerator pedal.

Suppose then that you hit a dry patch of road when the aquaplaning effect suddenly stops only for your car to now be accelerating strongly under the command of the cruise control. You will then find yourself in a highly dangerous situation that you will do well to bring uder control. Some people have experienced the same effect and describe it as if the car suddenly "took off". Serious accidents have been reported in these circumstances.

The solution is never to use cruise control in wet, icy or other slippery conditions. You should also familiarise yourself with the handbook instructions for your car so far as cruise control is concerned, and take note of all warnings that are given. It could save an accident, and could even save your life.


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