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Edition 320 – Aquaplaning

It’s mid morning in early March. The rain is torrential. A scheduled Zoom call with some great clients is put on hold as I rush out to check the noise of the gutters overflowing, only to find the floodwaters rushing towards our back door. It was panic stations as we dived out into the downpour to do what we could to move the water away.

Mid way through the emergency, my wife comes running to me with her phone in her hand.

“Callum’s had a car accident” she cries out in panic as we immediately decide that she should head to the scene, less than one kilometre from our home, whilst I did all I could to deal with the deluge which, seemingly, wouldn’t stop.

As Callum had been making his way home, the rain had come down so heavy that it was sending huge rivers of water over the road. As he traversed an arc in the road (so slight, you could hardly call it a bend), his car aquaplaned on one of the torrents of water. The strength of the water pulled his car to the left, off the road, only for it to then pull right, taking him across the lane of oncoming traffic. As he skated out of control, the car crossed onto the grass verge, where his Ford Territory clouted a power pole beyond the “C” pillar – between the rear passenger door and the right rear corner.

When I eventually made my way to the scene, I was amazed at the sight before me. The Australian designed, engineered and manufactured SUV that I purchased new in 2011 and which I passed onto Callum in 2018 was a wreck. The driver’s front and side curtain airbags had deployed, as they were designed to do. The rear of the car was mangled. The chassis was twisted. The car was done and dusted!

An injured shoulder and uncomfortable ribs saw my wife take Callum to hospital, which later confirmed swelling of the shoulder due to the inertia effect of the seatbelts grabbing him at the time of impact, and three cracked ribs from the velocity of the hit against the power pole.

The thing about aquaplaning, which I’ve experienced twice before in my own life, is that when it happens, you lose complete control of your vehicle. It’s an odd sensation as you can feel the car gliding over water, not asphalt. You’re merely a passenger until, hopefully, the wheels re-engage with the road. When it doesn’t, that’s when it’s an unfolding drama with the potential for major injury and damage.

Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of businesses where the owners are aquaplaning at the wheel. The conditions change in their industry, the economy or amongst their clients and they’re not prepared for what’s about to happen, let alone being ready “in the moment”.

Be it cars or businesses, when the situation changes quickly, you need to use a combination of:

  1. Modulation of speed.
  2. Steering control.
  3. Clear vision of what’s heading your way.
  4. A “seat of the pants” feel for what’s happening right at that moment.

to manoeuvre through the event.

And just like car drivers, some business owners adapt quickly and escape unscathed, others lose control momentarily, then bring it back in check and others still end up contacting with an immovable object.

This Week’s Tip

“The sense of a loss of control often leads to irrational decision making,
amplified by the unwillingness to reach out and seek help.”