Driving in flood water

With the weather particularly horrendous in the UK, this guide should help drivers navigate the roads safely.

The UK has had a rough few months weather-wise. First of all the country was hit by one of the worst storms in recent times and is now subject to sporadic bouts of rain and heavy winds. It seems as though this kind of climate, for now, is here to stay.

As such, the chances of certain parts of the UK being subject to floods is extremely high and it is not without precedent – the south-west in particular has been hard hit by the horrendous conditions, with showers falling on already flooded areas.

This means that as a driver, there is an increased risk of having to navigate through certain roads that have become flooded, so it pays to be aware of what to do in order to ensure that your vehicle is not damaged and that you do not put yourself in danger.

Gauge the severity of the flood

The best advice is to avoid all flooded areas. If you can take an alternative route, irrespective of the fact that it will add time to your journey, then do so. It is the safer option.

If however you feel that you have no option, gauge how deep it is. Anything that is less than six centimetres of standing water is reasonable. Establish that this is consistent throughout the flooded part of the road – the water could be deeper where the surface dips for example.

Drive slowly through the flood

You should approach the flood at a slow and steady pace and in a low gear (one or two). This will ensure that the water is left relatively undisturbed as going too fast can create what is known as a bow wave, which can make driving even more difficult.

In other words, if you drive at a heightened speed, you may lose complete control of your car. In some cases, your tyres can be lifted from the ground and be carried away. In such a scenario, hold your steering wheel gently and take your foot off the throttle until the wheels find the ground again.

Different types of floods

The type of flood you come across will depend on where you are driving. Urban floods happen in built up areas, river floods develop when surface water increases and spills over and flash floods materialise when rain falls so swiftly that it quickly builds up on the ground and effectively turns roads into rivers.

"Flash flooding commonly happens more where rivers are narrow and steep, so they flow more quickly," the Met Office states on its website. "It can also occur away from small rivers in built-up urban areas where hard surfaces such as roads and concrete don't let the water drain away into the ground. This leads to surface overflow and can often overwhelm local drainage systems leading to flash flooding."

General points

If the weather is especially grim, seek alternative methods of transportation. If you have no option, then prepare for the journey ahead. Pack spare food, warm clothing and reflective attire; make sure your windscreen wipers are up to the job; check that your lighting is in mint condition; and increase the space between your car and the vehicles in front of you.

When emerging at the other end of a flood, make sure your car is in normal working condition. The most important thing to consider is your brakes, so apply pressure as normal to ascertain if they are functioning as they should do.

  • On: 30 January 2014
  • By: CarShop

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