Hydroplaning Experts

What do hydroplaning experts need to be able to do to help his client in court?I will answer this question from my perspective and how I work hydroplaning cases.

First and foremost, I believe it is vitally important to be able to explain to the judge and jury how the vehicles hydroplaned in a very clear and easy to understand manner. The jury will listen and understand the technical aspects of an accident if it is presented in a manner they understand. It is my job as a hydroplaning expert to educate the jury about the technical issues of the case.

Many jurors have experienced the sensation of hydroplaning. Most drivers recover control of their vehicle before striking another vehicle and become involved in an accident. The momentary moment of loss of control of your vehicle is not easily forgotten. What the jury does not understand is how a liquid--like water-- can lift a 5,000 pound vehicle off the pavement surface.

During the short period of time the vehicle is lifted off the pavement, the driver has absolutely no control of the vehicle. The driver cannot steer the vehicle and the applying the brakes do not slow the car. I have had people tell me that it felt like their vehicle increased in speed.

Hydroplaning Expert Explains in Layman's Language

As a professional hydrologist, I try to describe hydroplaning in terms lay person knows and understands. 

A good example is that of a person skiing on water. Initially, the skier is submerged in the water. The boat begins move forward pulling the skier. As the speed of the boat and skier increase, the skier rises out of the water until the skier is skimming across the top of the water on his skis.

As long as the boat maintains sufficient speed, the skier will glide across the water. When the boat slows down, the skier will sink down into the water. 

When a car hydroplanes, the driver is driving along the roadway, encounters a pool of water on the roadway, and the vehicle's tires lift onto the water. Whenever the driver passes through the pool of water or the depth of water decreases, the tires will regain contact with the pavement surface. Again, the driver has steering and braking capability of the vehicle and regains control.

Four Aspects of a Hydroplaning Case

I enjoy the role of a hydroplaning expert because it allows me to use the training and experience in (1) civil engineering, (2) hydrology, (3) land surveying and (4) traffic accident reconstruction. 

First, my civil engineering experience in roadway design and maintenance helps me understand the characteristics of roadway pavement surfaces, i.e. horizontal and vertical curves, superelevation transitions, vertical sags, and longitudinal and cross slope. I understand where on the roadway a hydroplaning incident is likely to occur and why.

Second, my professional hydrologist experience gives me the background to understand the characteristics of water, water flow patterns on pavement surfaces and how storm water events affect hydroplaning. The question that is always asked is; “how deep was the water on the roadway?” Hydroplaning experts know the importance of calculating the depth of the water.

Third, my land surveying skills assist me in obtaining field documentation of roadway irregularities and defects. A forensic survey is factual information of the condition of the roadway to be used in court. It is used to show the direction of flow of the water across the pavement surface. The survey drawing provides visual evidence that the jury easily understands.

Finally, being trained as a traffic accident reconstruction engineer helps in how the accident happened and pulls all the information together into a very clear picture of the accident sequence.

Your Hydroplaning Expert in Court

In most cases I provide expertise in all four areas. In other cases, I have provided only the expertise relating to hydroplaning.

When the case reaches the court, the jury needs to be educated about each facet of the traffic accident. As a hydroplaning expert, civil engineer, land surveyor and accident reconstruction engineer, I understand all the components of a hydroplaning case which helps me to explain the accident to a jury. It takes all the pieces to fit the puzzle together to create a clear picture. 


Further Reading About Hydroplaning

What is hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning caused by roadway defects

Qualifications of a good hydroplaning expert

Hydroplaning article written by Elvin Aycock for the American Institute of Hydrology.

Home Page - Atlanta Engineering Services

Ruts cause hydroplaning where the asphalt and the subgrade has failed.

Hydroplaning on roadways while transiting from superelevation to normal crown

Pavement drainage can be a problem in vertical curve sags and in transitions from superelevations to tangent sections.

More pavement drainage problems occur when the centerline crown is destroyed and superelevation transitions hold water.