What to Do When Driving in Flood Water
Flooding can happen any time thanks to heavy rain, blocked drains, burst water mains, high tides and burst river banks. You’ll most likely know ahead of time when flooding is coming, if you hear flooding is on the way, it’s time to move your car to higher ground. Water can play havoc with your cars electric systems, and can even cause airbags to go off later on.
Below we’ll tell you what to do when driving in flood water:
During Heavy Rain
- Turn your headlights on – The Highway Code says you must use them when visibility is seriously reduced (less than 100m).
- Use fog lights if you like, but switch them off when visibility improves.
- Leave twice as much space between you and the car in front – it takes longer to stop in the wet.
- If your steering feels light due to aquaplaning, ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
- If you break down don’t prop the bonnet open while you wait. Rain-soaked electrics can make it harder to start the engine.
Floods and Standing Water
- Try to avoid standing water if you can.
- Don’t drive into flood water that’s moving or more than 10cm (4 inches) deep.Let approaching cars pass first.
- Drive slowly and steadily so you don’t make a bow wave.
- Test your brakes as soon as you can afterwards.
- Fast-moving water is very powerful – take care or your car could be swept away.
If you do get stuck in flood water, it’s usually best to wait in the car and call for help rather than try to get out.
Driving fast through water is dangerous, inconsiderate and can end up being very expensive. Your tires can lose contact with the road, causing you to lose steering control – called aquaplaning. If you feel it happening, hold the steering lightly and lift off to slow down gently until your tires grip again. At anything above a slow crawl you’ll throw water onto pavements, soaking pedestrians or cyclists. You could be fined and get points on your licence for this.
It only takes an egg cupful of water to be sucked into your engine to wreck it, and on many cars the engine’s air intake is low down at the front.
What to Watch Out For
- Look out for slip and trip hazards like kerbs under the water.
- Manhole covers can get lifted and moved.
- Water levels can change quickly.
- Assume that flood water is contaminated:
Keep in mind, urban flood water can carry dangerous bacteria from drains and sewers that could cause disease. Rural flood water is more likely to be contaminated by agricultural chemicals and animal waste. If you live by the sea, the salt water can cause serious damage to the underbelly of your vehicle.
Next time your faced with a flood, remember these tips for a safe drive. Remember, if you don’t feel comfortable driving, don’t!