A series of crashes Friday morning on Interstate 295 resulted from drivers with poor tires going too fast in heavy rain and losing control, said police, who are urging motorists to be prepared with more rain on the way.
Inadequate tire tread was cited in two crashes and excessive speed for the conditions was cited as the cause of another.
“When you think about the vehicle footprint touching the ground, it’s four sections the size of the palm of your hand touching the ground,” said Patrick Moody, executive director of AAA Northern New England. “You need that tire in good shape and you need to be on decent terrain or you’re going to lose traction.”
State Trooper Marvin Hinkley said a pickup truck with bad rear tires slid off I-295 as it was exiting at Mile 28 in Brunswick at 10:23 a.m.
The truck, driven by Mason Smith, 19, of Lisbon rolled into a tree. The roof of the cab was crushed and the driver’s hand was pinned between the roof and the steering wheel.
Firefighters had to extricate Smith from the truck, though he was not seriously injured, Hinkley said.
Earlier in the day, three crashes slowed southbound commuters but caused no serious injuries.
Just after 7 a.m. at Mile 11 in Falmouth, a pickup truck with inadequate tires hit the guardrail. The driver of a box truck following close behind slammed on its brakes and was rear-ended by a third vehicle, Hinkley said.
A short while later in Cumberland, the driver of another pickup lost control while driving too fast for the conditions and hit the guardrail, said Trooper Anthony Keim. The two crashes combined to back up traffic for miles, into Yarmouth. “It was a mess over there,” said Keim.
Another interstate crash, in Freeport, was reported about 8 a.m. but it was relatively minor, police said.
The role that heavy rain played in the crashes and the prospect for more rain has safety experts urging motorists to drive for the conditions and make sure their vehicles’ equipment is safe.
A vehicle hydroplanes when a tire’s tread cannot contact the road because it can’t displace a layer of water. Hinkley said a general rule is that a car going 53 mph or faster is almost sure to hydroplane if the standing water is deeper than the tire tread.
Moody at AAA said even properly inflated tires with good tread may lost some contact with the road at speeds as low as 35 mph.
“At 60 mph, water may completely separate the tire from the road and cause hydroplaning,” he said.
The driving club’s “Get a Grip” pamphlet encourages motorists to drive at reasonable speeds, avoid hard braking or sharp turns, and drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of them.
Maintaining a three- to four-second gap behind the car ahead is adequate for driving in dry conditions, but in rain that distance should expand to five to six seconds or more, Moody said.
Roads are often most slippery right after it starts raining, he said. “There’s oil and road debris rising to the surface, before it’s washed away.”
The National Weather Service in Gray is forecasting a chance of thunderstorms with heavy wind and rain Saturday afternoon and the possibility of more thunderstorms every day through Thursday.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org