Road hazards come in many forms, but very few drivers know the correct procedure when driving in a flooded area. Hurricane season is upon us once again—as is the heightened risk of flooded roadways. Do you know what to do?
Let's examine some facts. A closer look at flooding statistics reveals sobering evidence that flooded roadways are a greater threat than most drivers think.
Florida and Flooding: The Facts You Need to Know
According to The National Weather Center and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water.” Additionally, Florida faces higher flood risks than any other state due to combination of flat terrain and the threat of hurricanes, high tides, and rising seas.
The Florida Flood Insurance website does a fine job of laying out the dangers associated with flooding. Not only does this site emphasize the high-risk to Florida's extensive coastline, but it mentions that “25% of all flood claims come from moderate- to low-risk areas.” It doesn't matter whether you live on the beach or in the relative safety of inland central Florida—flooding is a danger that you are more likely to face than you realize.
Key Facts for Florida Residents to Consider
- Florida's famous summer thunderstorms regularly cause flooding
- 40 percent of natural disasters involve flooding
- The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requires more policies in Florida than any other state
- According to FEMA, flooding causes more deaths than any other weather hazard
Flooded Roadways—A Serious Threat
Throughout Florida and in cities like Clearwater, the Department of Transportation does an amazing job of taking care of our roadways. This is likely one of the reasons that Florida drivers don't spend much time thinking about flooded roads or high waters. It's clear that they should.
A chilling post by The Weather Channel has this to say:
“[A]bout 64 percent (112 out of 176) of flood deaths involved vehicles. Many of those likely occurred when a person was trying to cross a flooded road.”
The same story goes on to reveal that 234 flood-related deaths took place in one 18-month span. Despite the best efforts of any team or department, the volatile nature of weather still reigns supreme. When the waters rise faster than we can clear them, there isn't much we can do. And, due to Florida's flat, often below sea-level terrain, draining water is a challenge with few viable solutions.
If you find yourself driving in high water or approaching flooded roadways, follow these safety tips to save yourself (and your car) from mother nature's devastation.
Flooded Roadway Safety Tips
“Turn Around, Don't Drown”
This may seem like common sense, but the first rule of driving along flooded roadways is not to. FEMA puts it best: “Turn around, don't drown.” In other words, don't cross flooded roadways.
It is impossible for motorists to ascertain the depth of the water or the condition of the road beneath it. Safety experts agree that roads are flooded when you cannot see the road markings. Danger only increases in the event of moving water, so avoid flooded roadways, look for alternate routes, and do not cross unless absolutely necessary.
As Autofile reports, six inches of water is all it takes to stall an engine. At one foot, vehicles can float or lose traction entirely. In addition, The National Weather Service warns that walking through flood waters is equally dangerous. Six inches of fast-moving water has enough power to knock over an adult.
Assess the Situation
If you have no choice but to navigate flooded roadways, keep safe by taking some precautionary measures. First, slow down when you approach any area that appears flooded. If possible and safe, stop.
Now, evaluate your surroundings. Are there other vehicles around? Take note as they pass through and whether the water affects their passage. This could alert you to unseen hazards and help you gauge the depth of the water.
Again, if crossing is your only option, proceed slowly. Maintain the same speed through the flooded area. Driving too fast through high water will increase your risk of losing control of steering or losing contact with the surface of the road. Alternately, driving too slowly increases your risk of stalling. Maintain a slow but steady momentum through the flooded area.
In addition to observing your surroundings, take a moment to locate all power lines. Downed power lines are a major hazard that Florida drivers contend with on a regular basis. If power lines appear down in flooded areas, you cannot cross for any reason.
In the Event of an Emergency…
If you find yourself stranded, remain calm and use your assessment of the situation to make smart decisions. Every scenario poses its own threats, but all stranded drivers can (and should) take a few steps to remain safe.
Stalled engine? If you've attempted to restart your car and it doesn't hum back to life, stop. If your engine is waterlogged, repeated attempts to start your car could cause engine damage.
Should you find yourself stuck, turn on your hazards and call an emergency number. Your hazards will help other drivers and the rescue crew find you. If you do not have a cell phone, wait for the rain to clear and reach out to other drivers for assistance.
Finally, only leave your vehicle if rising water gives you no other option or if you have ascertained that exiting your vehicle and reaching higher ground is safe and possible.
Though we hope you never find yourself navigating a flooded roadway, we believe these tips will give you an advantage in a dangerous—and often inevitable—situation. If you have any legal questions or concerns in the aftermath of a flood or hurricane, please contact one of our legal professionals in Clearwater at (727) 451-6900 or online. Most importantly, drive safely and always watch the roads.Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/florida-car-accident-lawyer/