What You Need To Know About Driving In Flood Conditions

August 29, 2017

Driving through flooded streets and heavy rain can make even the most experienced driver uneasy – and with good reason! With the upcoming fall season and the recent increase in flooded roadways across the U.S., it’s the best idea for everyone on the highway to learn the best steps to take when driving through flooded areas or very intense rain. 

flood FEMA
Image Courtesy of FEMA

Before driving in any heavy rain or flood conditions, make sure to check your car to see if everything is working properly and in good condition. Take your vehicle to a Certified shop and have it inspected, ensuring your tires are inflated properly and your brakes are operating smoothly. These two aspects of your car are extremely important, as your tires are the only pieces of your car hitting the wet ground and your brakes are ensuring you can safely stop rolling in any event.

Drive Slow and Stay In The Center Of The Road

When driving in heavy rain with water pooling on or around the road, try to stay toward the center of the road as often as possible. Most streets have a small incline that forces the water toward the sides of the road, helping to make the center of the road, or the center most lane, have the least amount of water to encounter. 

Make sure to travel slowly and do not speed over larger collections of water, as they may cause your tires to lose traction of the road. Driving at a slower speed can help you maintain complete control of your vehicle, as well as improve the driving conditions of those around you, as high speeds can cause stronger waves and sprays of water. Water can be unpredictable and difficult to perceive depth with a quick look, so always approach with caution!

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Avoid Standing Water Whenever Possible

While some may believe their car can just simply power through flooded roads and streets, it's never a smart idea to do and cannot only severely damage your vehicle and put you in harm's way if you get stuck. The best thing to do if you encounter these conditions is to simply find a different route, even if it's going to take a while longer. 

It's very dangerous to drive into any standing amount of water without knowing the depth of the flood waters. It only takes 12 inches of water to make the average car lose traction of the road, rendering you unable to steer and putting you in a dangerous situation. Depending on your vehicle, it can take only 6 inches of water to make your engine stall, causing extensive damage if you attempt to start it up again. Both of these events are scary and not wanted by any driver, so do your best to not drive through any standing water. 

A good rule of thumb? Don’t drive in a flooded street if you can't see the painted lines on the road.

Respect Moving Water!

Water can be a lot stronger than it looks! When driving in even slightly flooded streets with moving water, be very careful and proceed with caution. Your car can easily be swept away by these waters, even if they seem harmless and manageable at first. It only takes a short moment for these waters to get under the wheels of your car cause a loss of traction for the tires, rendering you helpless. With moving water, it can be very difficult to see the depth of it, and with the water moving at even a slow speed, this causes a lot of variables that could bring a dangerous situation for you and your vehicle. Try to avoid moving water on roads whenever possible.

If You Have to Drive In Flooded Roads, Here's How You Should Proceed:

You may have tried to get around the flooded roads, but they seem to be your only option. While this is not an ideal situation, you can travel through them if you take the right precautions and approached them with care. 

Find The Shallowest Part

The first thing you should do is to check the depth of the water and try to find a section of road that is the most shallow. Driving through too much water can immobilize your vehicle and put you in harm's way. 

Watch For Debris

Make sure to watch out for items that may be floating in the water traveling toward you, as they may damage your vehicle or impede you from driving. 

One At A Time

Also, be very cautious when driving with others on the road as well, make sure only a single car goes at a time, as waves made by a car may force other cars to lose traction and be rendered immobile. Being patient can improve everyone's safety. 

Double and Triple Check

Once you are out of the water, make sure to check your brakes to make sure they are still functioning properly, as the brakes could have been debilitated because of the water. On the average passenger vehicle, it only takes 6 inches to reach the undercarriage of the car, so that little of water could cause temporary or permanent failure of your brakes.  

Make sure to travel slow, be cautious, and do everything to arrive safely at your destination!

About the Author

Oliver Weiss is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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