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Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

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Little-known fact about autocruise

2013-08-27 13:00

CRUISIN’ FOR A BRUISIN’: Driving with cruise control engaged could lead drivers to become inattentive behind the wheel.Image: YouTube

Relaxing drive, lower fuel consumption... automotive cruise control has many benefits. In rain, however, it could put you in serious trouble.

There’s an email doing the rounds on Wheels24's server and it details a woman’s ordeal with cruise control one rainy day.

“A 36-year-old female had a crash," so the story goes. "It was raining, though not excessively, when her car suddenly began to hydroplane and literally flew through the air. She was not seriously injured but stunned by the occurrence!

"When she explained to the police officer what had happened he told her something that every driver should know -  never drive in  rain with cruise control set."

The woman thought she was being cautious by using her cruise control to maintain a safe and consistent speed through the bad weather....


The email continues: "The police, we were informed, told her that if cruise control was on while the car hydroplanes (whentyres lose contact with the tar on a layer of water because the tyres cannot disperse it fast enough) the driven wheels will accelerate under the reduced load and severely affect handling when grip is regained.

"Your car will accelerate to a higher rate of speed making you take off like an aeroplane. She told the officer that was exactly what had occurred. The officer said this warning should be listed on the driver's sun-visor along with the airbag warning.

"We tell our teenagers to set the cruise control and drive a safe speed – but we don't tell them to use the cruise control only when the road is dry.”

The email ends in the usual "send this to 15 people or..." rhetoric but is there any truth behind this? In the event of aquaplaning, can cruise control exacerbate the situation?

YES - but not for the reasons the email suggests:

A driver's reaction will determine whether a nasty aquaplane becomes anything more than a blood-pressure spiking scare.

The US National Safety Commission explained that once cruise control is engaged the driver no longer has contact with the accelerator so he no longer "feels" if the wheels are losing traction... until it's too late.

When something goes wrong while cruise control is engaged most drivers brake to disengage it. If the car begins to aquaplane, hitting the brakes is the last thing you should be doing.

Even with the wheels locked under braking and the cruise control disengaged, the car would continue to aquaplane. ABS-equipped cars could save most drivers in this situation, however, reports Crashforensics.com, an effective way to stop your wheels from spinning and maintain control is to reduce power.

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