Driving in wet conditions can be hazardous for any driver especially when dealing with floods. Even if they have years of driving experience behind them, drivers can struggle when dealing with floods as even the most modern road surface is liable to standing water. Before setting off ask yourself if the journey you are about to take is essential. If not, delay it until the rain has subsided. Either way, getting yourself covered with a decent Breakdown Cover policy isn’t a bad idea, should you damage your vehicle and need recovering.
The only 100% guarantee to avoid being stranded when dealing with floods is… Do not drive through flood water – find another route.
- If floods have been forecast in your area, move your vehicle to a higher and/or safer place. But if the flooding has already begun, use your own judgement as to whether it is safe to do so. Two thirds of those who have died in flood-related incidents were considered to be good swimmers, and 32% of flood-related deaths are by drowning in a vehicle. Never underestimate what dangers flood water can put you in.
- Water hides dips and holes in the road. If the flooding has been severe then it may have washed the entire road surface away and even the ground beneath it. Never attempt to drive through a flood that you cannot walk through safely.
- Do not attempt to drive through flood water that is either moving or more than 4 inches (10cm) deep. If the flooding is less than this, wait for the oncoming traffic to pass first and then drive slowly and steadily in the middle of the road where the water will be shallowest. Do this in a high gear so that the engine revs are higher, otherwise if water gets into the exhaust it could damage the catalytic converter.
- A small amount of water is enough to touch the bottom of most cars. If it reaches important areas on your car it can cause stalling and loss of control due to water being sucked into the exhaust or into the air intake. Diesel and turbo-charged engines are the most vulnerable if water is sucked in. It is worth checking where the air intake is on your engine, usually it is low down at the front of the engine bay, but getting to know your car better can save you heartache and a hefty bill.
- Water can be extremely dangerous to both you and your vehicle, so think before you enter flood waters:
– 6 inches (15cm) of fast flowing water can knock you over and be enough for you to find it difficult to get to your feet again.
– 12 inches (1 foot) of moving water can make even the average family car move. This is due to the wheels losing their grip of the road which in turn makes the driver lose control and float into other objects or cars.
– 24 inches (2 feet) of flowing water can sweep away MOST vehicles, this includes large four-wheel drive cars.
- If you have driven too fast through floods it may cause your tyres to lose contact with the road and lose your steering control; this is called aquaplaning. To gain control of your car again, first STAY CALM. Staying calm is key to helping you make the right decisions at this time. If you have an automatic car then disengage this function first. Avoid slamming on the breaks and turning your steering wheel forcefully to try to regain control as both of these can send you into a skid. All you need to do is just gently turn the steering wheel into the direction you wish to go and if you need to break then again do this gently with light pumping actions. This should allow the tyres to regain grip on the road and let you to regain control of your car.
- If you have managed to get through a flooded road safely, always check your breaks are still working. Do this as soon as it is safe to do so after driving though the water. If your engine cuts out after driving through the flooding, do not attempt to restart the car as engine damage may occur. Call for assistance and have your vehicle properly checked over.
- Driving through floods at any speed above a slow crawl can splash water onto pavements and therefore soak cyclists and pedestrians. Be considerate… not only is this dangerous but it is also illegal. You could be awarded 3 to 9 points on your licence and be given a large fine if it is considered that you were driving without reasonable consideration for other road users.