Why cruise control is bad during heavy rainfall

When coupled with rain, cruise control can lead to disastrous — and potentially deadly — results.

Cruise control can be both a lifesaver and a nightmare for drivers.

Cruise control gives many drivers a sense of security when driving on the road, from utilizing less gas to helping maintain a constant speed. However, when coupled with rain, this can lead to disastrous — and potentially deadly — results.

The most common way to stop cruise control is by pressing your brake, which is the opposite of what you should do when your car begins to skid; instead, you want to slowly ease off the gas pedal to slow your car down rather than flooring the brakes.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, from 2007 to 2016, more than 800,000 car crashes were caused by wet pavements, resulting in more than 300,000 injuries and more than 4,000 deaths in the U.S.

Traffic problems

During a dry period, grease, dirt and other materials collect on the roads. When rain falls on top of that, those materials can create a film on the surface of the street, causing it to become extra slippery. The thin layer of grime above the water's surface reduces the car's traction while driving. 

This can lead to hydroplaning, which means your vehicle spins out of control at high speeds. If this occurs while using cruise control, the use of breaks on your car can lead you to lose control and potentially spin out as both the brakes and tire will fail to gain any traction. 

Limitations of cruise control

Cruise control also limits your ability to make immediate decisions. While maneuvering on highways in normal conditions, lowering speed is a matter of easing off the gas pedal. With cruise control, you are locked in at a constant speed and have less time to reduce your speed.

Driving through wet roads at high speeds can cause your car to lose traction and hydroplane as your tires will rotate too fast to grip the roads properly. This is exacerbated by cruise control, which can require you to use your brakes to regain control of the vehicle.

While cruise control may seem like a safe alternative for driving long distances, with heavy rain conditions, cruise control's less-manual approach will prove to be more of a detriment when faced with split-second decisions on slippery roads.