Dangers of Driving on Flooded Roads
Noble McIntyre on April 13, 2016
April showers bring… well, you know the saying. But, sometimes, an “April shower” (or any downpour) is more than a shower. Heavy rains, especially in the spring, can cause severe flooding. Driving on flooded roads can be very dangerous. In any harsh weather situation, the best option is to stay off the roads, but that’s not always possible. If you do need to drive when there are flooded roads, keep these cautions in mind:
- Standing water not only reduces visibility, it also increases the risk of aquaplaning. Aquaplaning (also called hydroplaning) happens when there is a layer of water between the bottom of the vehicle’s wheels and the road surface. At that point, the vehicle can lose traction and will fail to respond to control inputs. That means that your steering, brakes, acceleration and other functions won’t work, and you will lose control of the car. If you are facing standing water, the safest thing to do is to turn around and find another way to your destination. If you’re in traffic or it is impossible to avoid to the water, drive slowly and keep a steady speed.
- Do not attempt to drive through standing water if you suspect that the water is more than four inches deep. In many cars, the air intake is low on the front end. Just an egg-cupful of water in the combustion chamber could ruin your engine. As well, if you are driving too fast, even if the intake is above the water level, it could still be ingested. If you’re passing through water, use first or second gear (L or 1 for an automatic transmission vehicle).
- If you must pass through standing water, allow oncoming traffic to pass first and take your time. If you pick up speed, you could create a bow wave, which would be dangerous to both vehicles.
- Remember that it can take longer to stop on wet roads, so leave extra space between your vehicle and others, and begin to stop gradually and early.
- If your car stalls, don’t open the hood in the rain. Your engine will be in even worse shape if it is rained on than if you wait for shelter before opening the hood.
- If the water is moving (not standing), even 30 centimeters of water could be enough to wash your car off the road. If your engine stalls or you change gear while driving in water, it could require expensive repairs because your engine could need to be stripped and rebuilt.
- If you’ve ended up in standing water unexpectedly and you feel that your wheels have lost grip on the road, the vehicle would likely begin to float. If that happens, open a door a small amount to allow a little water into the passenger compartment of the car. This will weigh it down and allow the tires to grip again. It’s messy, but your interior will dry — it’s still better than having an accident.
- Because a car in standing water could begin to float, if you are stalled or the car is floating, get out and head for higher ground, and then call 9-1-1.
- Often, storms powerful enough to cause flooding can also cause downed power lines. If you see a downed power line, stay in your car and call 9-1-1. Never attempt to drive through water if you see that there are lines down nearby. Stay as far away as possible.
- Don’t be a superhero. If there are barricades or other closures in place, don’t assume that you can make it through, anyway. Respect the closures and believe that they are there because whatever is beyond the barricade is unsafe. Don’t try to go around or through if officials have closed a road or area.
Most of us understand weather hazards like snowstorms, tornadoes and other natural disasters, but we forget that rain, too, can make driving very dangerous. If you’re on the roads and see impassable flooding, call 9-1-1. Your safety, and others’, could be at risk. The best bet is always to find another route if there’s even a question in your mind as to how deep the water is or whether you’ll get through. Sometimes, water is deeper than it appears, so caution is always the best choice.