Driving through floodwaters is never advisable. According to National Weather Service data, there were 146 flood fatalities in the United States in 2021, up from 59 deaths in 2020. The leading cause of was vehicle use.
"Turn Around Don't Drown® is still the best advice. But what happens when floodwaters from snowmelt, spring rain, or tidal surges come on so fast that you’re still on the road when it floods?
This is a potentially deadly situation – 32% of flood-related deaths are related to vehicle use. Use these guidelines to evaluate your options, and proceed cautiously if you absolutely have to drive through water.
- Don’t believe you know the road when you can’t see it. Water will cover collapsed pavement, sinkholes, potholes, and debris. You could damage your vehicle badly and injure yourself and your passengers if you run into underwater hazards.
- Stay out of moving water. Moving water has high potential to rise. No matter how large your vehicle, two feet of water can overwhelm it quickly.
- Estimate the depth of the water before proceeding. As little as six inches of water can flood your exhaust system and leave you surrounded by potentially rising floodwaters. A good rule of thumb is to avoid crossing or driving in water that’s more than halfway above your wheels. Even if your vehicle has more than six inches of clearance, many models of cars will float in one foot of water, leaving you with no control in moving water.
- If possible, move to the middle of the road. Most roads are graded so that the center is slightly higher than the edges – meaning the water will be somewhat shallower in the middle.
- Drive very, very slowly to avoid flooding your engine. Enter the water at two miles per hour or less – going fast could have the same effect as hitting a concrete barrier. Stay under five miles per hour once in the water.
- Don’t endanger other drivers. Take turns driving slowly through the flooded area, and go slowly so you don’t create a bow wave that swamps other vehicles.
- Once clear of the water, dry your brakes. Drive very slowly while lightly applying the brakes.
It’s better to turn around than drown
The best course of action is simply not to drive through standing water, and never drive through flowing water. Turn around if you come across a flooded road, and obey road closure signs. Your safety is more important than your destination.
Our Risk Coaches™ are licensed insurance professionals who are trained to look at coverage from your perspective. They’re glad to help you navigate the often-perplexing world of insurance coverage. Contact your local Risk Coach professional or call us at 800.342.5342, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET.