Saturday, February 11, 2012

Aquaplaning and Hydroplaning- Words I learnt the dangerous way



Had it not been for an incident last week in which I lost total control of my car and was saved only by the protective arms of God from a serious accident, I would not have learnt two new English words; Hydroplaning and  Aquaplaning. I have always known  hydroplanes as fast racing boats and aquaplanes as water skiing boards pulled by fast boats.  I never imagined that a moment of danger would culminate in me searching for and learning the verb forms of these words.


Last Thurday I woke up to a cool and beautiful morning, thanks to the light but continous rainfall that had begun during the night. I drove slowly to work, partly because of the wet road, and partly to enjoy the beauty of the raindrops falling gently on the windscreen. As I got to the last of the two traffic circles (roundabouts) that I drive through on a daily basis, I stopped to give way to traffic that was already in the circle. I then proceeded into the circle and headed straight towards the first exit. That is when the drama began.


Suddenly the car lost direction and veered to the left. There was nothing I could do to get it back in line! The steering wheel suddenly felt light as if it had no connection with the wheels. It might as well have been one of those toy steering wheels that you find on supermarket trolleys for little children to play driver while their parents push them around the shop! After several seconds of turning the steering wheel, the car then slid to the right, crossing the right lane towards the right edge of the road! By that time I had let go of the accelerator, stepped on the clutch and was applying the brakes gently. I came to a gentle halt by the extreme right side of the road and that is when the panic set in. My heart raced as I realised that had there been cars following closely behind, there would definitely have been a horrible crash. I then proceeded at a snail's pace to my work. Although I had regained control of my vehicle, I was convinced that there was a steering fault.


Hours later, a technician did a check on the car and confirmed that all was in order. The cause he said, was a phenomenon called Hydroplaning or Aquaplaning. The reason that I had no control over the car was because the wheels were not touching the road, but were resting on a layer of water and oil that separated the wheels from the ground! That explained why despite the fact that I had not been speeding, I had lost control. Due to the fact that there is a busy truck stop and taxi rank near the circle, a lot of oil and diesel is washed onto the road when it rains and it becomes a dangerous zone for drivers. 


While I thank the Almighty for his protection, and I ponder on what can be done to make the authorities act upon this dangerous  spot, I cannot help but heave a sigh of the relief and happiness that I did not lose much, but gained in terms of beefing up my word power. Who knows where and how you will add the next new word to your vocabulary?!

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Amatomu