Cruise Control Proves Problematic in the Rain

Automotive manufacturers have loaded our vehicles with lots of standard features and options to make the time we spend in our vehicles as comfortable and convenient as possible. One of these special options is cruise control, which has become increasingly more standard in late-model vehicles.

Cruise control is a great technological feature that can help save fuel costs and make long road trips and frequent interstate commutes more comfortable and less stressful. Drivers not only save money on gas using cruise, but they often avoid speeding tickets, when it is set at the speed limit.

If you’re not familiar with how cruise control works, you simply accelerate to the speed you wish to travel, enable the cruise control mechanism (usually a button), and away you go at your designated speed, without concern for depressing the accelerator and the risk of burning more gas by travelling at varying speeds.

Of course, drivers must stay watchful for others on the roadways and their rates of speed to stay safe. More importantly, when weather changes from clear and sunny to cloudy with rain, cruise control should always be disabled. The following explains why cruise control is problematic in the rain, and why you should disengage the feature.

The National Safety Commission explained, “Rain presents two distinct dangers to a driver; both with essentially the same end result. After a dry spell of any period, accumulated oil, grease, and dirt on the road can create extremely slippery conditions. The roads are most dangerous just after it starts to rain when a light sheen of water is standing on the road. The oil, grease etc. rise up in a layer on top of the water creating conditions similar to ice on the road. It creates such a problem during the summer thunderstorm period in the southeast that it is referred to as ‘Florida ice.’ After a period of heavy rain, the oil and grease will wash off the road and the slippery conditions diminish.”

An article published by Lifehacker agreed, “Wet roads are dangerous because the rainwater causes the oil and grease on the road to rise up to the top of the water. This creates a slippery, ice-like condition on the road, but it can get much worse if your tires can’t tread through the water fast enough. When that happens, it’s called Hydroplaning, and it can happen at speeds as low as 35 MPH.”

Drivers lose control of their vehicle when they hydroplane. The tires hit slick spots from engine oils that don’t mix with rainwater; or large puddles prevent the rubber from meeting the road, resulting in a skid or crash.

If cruise control is on when you hit ponding water or slick spots, your car will continue to maintain the speed at which cruise was set. A driver’s initial reaction when this happens is to apply the brakes to disable cruise control and slow the vehicle, but that is exactly what you don’t want to do in a skid, unless you have anti-lock brakes. Sudden braking like this can make hydroplaning, and the consequences thereof, much more dangerous and devastating.

“Cruise control makes hydroplaning worse by trying to keep your vehicle going at a constant speed. You can disable it by applying your brakes, but if you do not have anti-lock brakes, hitting your brakes while hydroplaning will only make the skidding worse,” the article concurred.

In as much as most late-model vehicles have a “traction control system” to avoid these kinds of incidents on wet roadways, the majority of older models do not. That said, it is important to remember that all cruise control systems have not been created equally over the years.

“The danger of cruise control is the initial speed and the ‘hitting the brake’ reaction that can occur when someone loses control of their vehicle, and particularly for automobiles without anti-lock brake systems,” Lifehacker reiterated.

No matter what, stay safer on wet roadways by reducing your speed and NOT using cruise control. There are plenty of beautiful days in the Sunshine State to use your cruise!

Holiday Shell is conveniently located at the corner of Sunray Dr and US Hwy 19, and serves as your one-stop shop in West Pasco County for gas, oil, windshield washer and other engine fluids, a car wash, vacuum, or air. We also offer a wide selection of popular everyday items like fresh coffee, ice cold beverages, household goods, office services and more.

Holiday Shell is open 24/7/365, and is available to provide basic automotive products and office services needed by US Hwy 19 commuters, North and South from Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, and all surrounding areas.


National Safety Commission