10 Reasons not to drive through floodwater

by Mar 3, 2022Preparation


It doesn’t take much to put water over the road, some rain, extra high tide or burst water main.  We see it all the time and don’t even consider the reasons not to drive through floodwater. 

 The water can be fresh or saltwater (which can damage your car further), it can be still or moving each situation has its hidden hazards you just don’t see.  Driving at night is even more dangerous as the wet road can blend into the flooded gulley crossing the road.  

 There are many reasons why you should not drive through flood water-

  1. The vehicle is swept away by moving water
  2. Submerged objects
  3. Deepwater
  4. Undulating ground
  5.  Damaged roadway
  6. Water damage to car
  7. Stranded in middle the flood water
  8. Endangering other people
  9. Car bow wave damages other property
  10. Brake failure

The vehicle is swept away by moving water

 It can take as little as 15cm (6 inches) of floodwater to reach the floor of most modern cars [1].  This can cause the car to lose grip on the road and start to float.  By this stage, you have lost control of your vehicle.

 Add a current to this water and you are being swept downstream to a fate unknown.   Moving water that is 60cm (2 feet) is enough to sweep away SUVs and four-wheel drive vehicles [1].  The “Don’t drive through flood water” message has been around for decades but there are still people ignoring the message. 

 With each major flood, there’s a news story of one or more people dying when their vehicle was washed away.


Submerged objects

 Floodwaters can be muddy, have a foam top layer or be murky from currents and contamination.  As you drive along you don’t see all the objects under the water that can damage your car or cause an accident.



 The water may be deeper than you anticipated and you think ‘it will be alright’.  Next thing the water is over your bonnet and the car has stalled.  At this stage, you panic while digging around in the flooded car for your mobile phone which no longer works.  Rescue won’t be happening soon as you float away.


Undulating ground

 The water over the road is only an inch or two so you keep driving but you have forgotten about the dip around the corner.  Water while flat on the surface, the ground underneath rises and falls.






Emergency Kit



Damaged roadway

 Ever had a look at a road after the flood was gone.  The flowing water washes the bitumen off the road.  Other roadway structures can be washed away too such as

  •  Bridges can have their supports undermined and collapse
  • Culverts can move with the force of the water hitting them
  • Manhole covers can pop up with the upward force of the water in the stormwater drains.
  • Roads with sloping banks or on the sides of hills can have subsidence

 This unseen damage can damage your vehicle or cause a serious accident.


Water damage to the car

 Your car is probably the second most expensive thing you own apart from your home.  Driving through flood water can cause a lot of damage to your car.  Water can enter – 

  • The vehicle interior, fabrics, carpet and seats cause mould and smells.  
  • Mechanical components such as gearbox, engine and other movable parts. 
  • The electrical and electronic systems will short out making starting the car impossible.


Stranded in middle the flood water

 Your engine stales, your car is swept against a tree in the middle of a creek or you don’t want to drive any further.  If the water is flowing it is not safe for you to get out of the vehicle but it may not be safe to stay in it either. 


Endangering other people

 Driving through flood water doesn’t just endanger yourself.  You could have family, friends or co-workers in the car with you.  And then there are the other road users you pushed off the road with your bow wave. 

 And once you have got yourself stuck, you endanger the lives of the rescuers who try everything they know to try to save you.


Car bow wave damages other property

 The tyres and car pushing against the water create a wave of water out each side. 

 These waves can –

  • Push other cars off the road
  • Knock people over on the footpath
  • Push water into people’s homes and businesses causing more damage.


Brake failure

 Driving through floodwater wets your brakes and reduces their grip.  If you don’t take the steps to dry them out before resuming regular driving you may not have brakes when you need them.



Emergency Kit


 Floodwaters can hide a lot of dangers which can damage your car and endanger the life of yourself, your family and others.   Your reckless actions can cause more damage to nearby drivers, buildings, businesses and homes.

 Don’t drive through floodwater, it’s not worth the risk.  You can wait it out or stay with a friend for the night.  It might mean you are stuck on the side of the road for the evening but if you have a vehicle emergency kit with some snacks and water you have a better chance of surviving than deciding to drive through the floodwater.

 If you are worried about getting home to your family or pets, call them, your neighbour or the emergency services if it’s a life-threatening situation.  You are no help to them if you are dead somewhere downstream.

Further reading

Turn Around Don’t Drown [1]


 Drivers warned: Don’t drive through floodwaters





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