As we head into fall, the chance of floods begins to increase. Nearly 100 people die every year in incidents related to flooding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and more than half of those incidents involve driving into hazardous water.
National Weather Service data says that there were 93 flood-related deaths last year, and 61 of those were in cars. About the same ratio has been playing out in 2020.
In order to stay safe, it’s crucial to realize the danger and take action to avoid it. If you think there could be six inches of water on a roadway, even if you’re not sure, stop your car and turn around — especially at night, when it’ harder to tell.
One reason is that a flood of six inches or more could potentially flood your tailpipe and cut your engine, stopping you in your tracks and disabling you in the path of the flood.
Another is that deep water can easily hide hazards like curbs, tree limbs, downed electrical wires or other debris that could strike and damage your car. You also can’t see the condition of the roadway, which could be worn away or even severely damaged.
Twelve inches of water is generally enough to move a small car. Twice that much and most vehicles will be carried away.
Flash flooding happens in a flash, hence the name. If your car becomes disabled or gets carried away, you could be in a life-threatening situation. Getting stuck or carried away in a flood puts you, your passengers and anyone who stops to help you in serious danger.
Don’t count on your truck or SUV to stay clear
“Deep water is also a threat to trucks and SUVs, even with their increased ground clearance,” warns the chief mechanic for Consumer Reports. “They have the same vulnerabilities as passenger cars.”
Even though the body of your vehicle may be higher, your tailpipe and intake could still be just a few inches above the ground. Don’t assume that you have extra clearance to work with and be aware that high water can carry away trucks and SUVs, too.
Flooding can total your car
Even if you can safely extricate yourself from a flooded area, the damage to your engine could be permanent. If you don’t have comprehensive auto insurance, you’ll be paying for a replacement out of pocket. According to AAA, you may want to contact your insurance company and find out what coverage you have before you attempt to get repairs.
Plan ahead and stay safe
When heavy rain comes, especially if there is a flash flood warning, stay home, If you’re on the roads, stay vigilant.