Flash Flood Driving Tips and Prepping Vehicles for Bad Weather

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Heavy rain and flooded roads are very dangerous, and even the best drivers need to be prepared for severe weather. Avoid driving if possible, but that’s not always going to be an option. Before the storm hits, be sure your vehicle is ready and you’re comfortable driving in the rain. Here are some tips to keep you safe.

Flash Flood Driving Tips

  • Avoid driving in storms or high winds.
  • Drive with your headlights on using low beams.
  • Avoid driving through standing water and flooded roads. Even shallow water can damage and/or disable your vehicle, and floodwaters can rise very quickly.
  • Maintain an extra-large amount of space around your vehicle, and increase your following distance.  This will give you more time and room to respond to other drivers’ sudden maneuvers.
  • Reduce your speed to account for the reduced tire traction on wet roads.
  • Don’t use cruise control during bad weather.
  • If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, gently ease off the accelerator and keep the steering wheel as straight as you can.

What to do if your vehicle stalls in a flooded area:

  • DO NOT remain in the car.
  • Abandon your vehicle as soon as possible and seek higher ground. Flood waters can rise quickly, sweeping away a vehicle and its occupants.

How to prepare your vehicle for driving in bad weather

  • Check your tires (including your spare) to make sure they have plenty of tread and are properly inflated.
  • Fill up your gas tank and check all fluid levels.
  • Make sure the windshield wipers are in good shape. The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots.
  • Pack an emergency kit in your vehicle, which includes a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; mobile phone and car charger; extra snacks/food for your travelers and any pets; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors.

How to protect your car from flooding:

  • Locate higher ground near your home and park your car there.
  • Find a deck or garage that offers cover to protect your car from wind damage.
  • Avoid leaving your car under power lines or trees.
  • Make sure there are proper documentation and insurance papers stored in your car (preferably in a zip lock bag or waterproof location).
  • Use flood covers. There are many waterproof flood covers you can purchase from auto part stores that have shown good results in protecting cars from water damage.

What to do if you are advised to evacuate your area:

  • Map your family’s evacuation route and have an emergency plan in place.
  • Evacuate as soon as it is recommended. Use the evacuation plan you’ve already prepared, leave early and during daylight hours.
  • Have a communications plan. Decide how you will contact family during a storm. Have every family member program emergency contacts into their phones. Come up with a predetermined meeting place and designate an out-of-state contact who can relay messages to family members in case local phone lines are down or overloaded.
  • Check the NC DOT and SC DOT websites for updates or call to verify road conditions.

Turn Around; Don’t Drown

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters.

People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded.

A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters.

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