When driving on the roadway after a flood event, it is very important to use vigilance and good judgment. According to the National Weather Service, nearly 100 people drown every year in floods. More than half of those deaths were caused by motorists trying to navigate through flooded streets. In response to these flood incidents, Pennsylvania enacted the law “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” in September of 2012. The law’s purpose is to protect Pennsylvania citizens and first responders from the dangers associated with flooding. By law, motorists who fail to ignore signs and/or barricades indicating that it is unsafe to drive through floodwaters, and who have to be rescued, will have to pay the rescue expenses. Drivers can also be fined between $250-$500, and have points assessed to their driving record.
According to FEMA, the best course of action is not to drive through floodwaters at all. Stay in place and wait until floodwaters recede before attempting to navigate the roads. Six inches of standing water can be enough to stall an engine in a low-clearance vehicle. Six inches of moving water can knock a person down. One foot of water is enough to dislodge a car from the surface, and force the car to float away. Further, exposure to water can cause irreparable damage to the car.
But, if driving through standing water is unavoidable, first, check your surroundings. Make sure that the water is, in fact, standing water. If you drive into current, you will most likely lose control of the vehicle, and become stranded. Do not drive through water if there are downed electrical wires nearby. The water and submerged objects can carry electrical current. Second, assess the cars in front of you. If the water is above the tailpipe of the cars, play it safe, and turn around.
If you must proceed through the standing water, travel slowly, but steadily, through the water. Leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. After driving through the standing water, tap your breaks to regain traction. Once you arrive home, and in the days that follow, check the car for any damage.
This photo is a dramatization. This article is not intended as legal advice. For legal advice, contact Graham & Mauer, P.C. today.
National Weather Service: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/water/tadd/resources/TADD_6_Arial.pdf
Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/automotive/chi-driving-through-standing-water-story.html
Photo: National Geographic