You’ve probably heard the term “turn around, don’t drown,” but do you know why it’s so important? It’s because, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over half of all flood-related drownings occur when someone drives a vehicle into flooded areas.
It can be easy to misjudge the depth and swiftness of water over the road, especially at night. But this misjudgment can have fatal consequences. It only takes a foot of water for many vehicles to float, especially smaller cars. Two feet of fast-moving water will float most vehicles, including pickups and SUVs. If you drive through water that is deeper than that, your vehicle could easily be swept away. Even if you aren’t swept away by water, your engine could flood and strand you in dirty, unsafe flood waters.
Aside from the obvious dangers of high water, there can be dangers lurking beneath the covered road—washed out roadways your vehicle can fall into or debris your vehicle can get hung up on.
So what should you do if you find yourself stranded in your vehicle in the middle of a flooded roadway? Get out of your car immediately and head for higher ground – but only if it is safe to do so. Wading through flooded areas creates its own set of dangers. Most adults can be knocked over by just 6 inches of fast-moving water. You can be swept away by these waters faster than you can react.
It’s also possible downed power lines could electrify the water – and you probably won’t see those lines until it’s too late. If you cannot move to higher ground safely, climb on to your vehicle’s roof, signal for help, and wait for it to arrive. If the water is high enough to submerge your car, unbuckle everyone, roll down the windows, and get out of the car immediately.
Avoiding flooded roadways is the best way to keep yourself safe around high water. Remember: turn around, don’t drown!