Turn Around Don’t Drown: Road Safety During Flooding

Depending on where you live, sudden rain and storms could create flooding conditions. In the past decade, with the exception of two years, more than 50% of flood-related deaths occurred while driving.

In some locations, you could unexpectedly find yourself in a hazardous driving situation with relatively short notice. If there is flooding in your area, ideally, you want to avoid being in your car. But if circumstances don’t allow for that, keep these tips in mind to help you make it home safely.

Stay Safe by Adjusting Your Speed

Speed is a major factor in traffic fatalities, killing on average more than 25 people each day. If you’re driving in flood conditions, adjusting your speed is the first thing you’ll want to do. If you are on a freeway or residential road that is passable with your vehicle, look for the highest point that is not submerged.

You may, at times, even find yourself driving in the middle of a road. The rules for pavement lines may no longer apply. In these situations, you’ll want to take it slow and find ways to communicate with other drivers to allow one car to pass at a time in narrow areas. This can only be done if you travel at very low speeds. You may even need to stop to assess situations where water has collected.

Educate Yourself About Your Surroundings

In general, keep an eye out for low areas prone to flooding and avoid them. Keep the radio on to inform you of dangerous areas, accidents, and other important information. You should also have multiple routes to and from your home preplanned, too. Keep a few other tips in mind as well:

  • Watch for water with downed electrical lines and avoid it. Electrical current can pass through water.

  • If you see moving water, stay out of it. No exceptions. People are easily swept up in it and vehicles can be carried away as well.

  • Drive in lower gears for better traction and control.

Moving Through Standing Water: Should You Try It?

Ideally, you want to avoid all water that you can see collected in an area. But there may be some situations where it’s either hard to gauge water depth or you still need to navigate through some standing water to get to a safer area.

Go slow. Even shallow water of a half-inch in depth can cause your car to hydroplane at higher speeds. As a general rule, you don’t want to enter water higher than the center of your wheels. If you do have to go through water that is even a couple of inches deep, travel at just a few miles per hour so your tires can keep traction.

How to Handle Flooding Inside a Car

If your car gets flood water in it, once the rain stops, you’ll want to start the drying process as soon as you can.

If you were not inside the car when it was submerged, check for a water line on the vehicle. Water that has not gone above the door line probably won’t cause much damage. But if the water reached the bottom side of the dashboard, your car may be considered totaled by your insurance company, especially if the flooding involved saltwater.

Don’t start the car right away. Check the oil dipstick for water. See if the lights and turn signals work. If you’re shopping for a car you suspect might have been in a flood, run a car vehicle history report on it. If it had flood damage, the words “salvage” or “flood” should be on the title.

To learn more about road safety during flooding, you can also take a defensive driving course. If you take a state-certified class, it will offer more tips and insights to help keep you safe. Check with your insurance company, too; some offer a discount if you take a defensive driving course.

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