How to stay safe while driving through a flash flood

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, floods can occur anywhere, with floodwaters rising gradually or flash floods striking suddenly. Flash floods are the number one storm-related killer in the United States. The Florida Division of Emergency Management reports that half of flood fatalities happen because people try to drive through hazardous flood waters rather than avoid them. The best advice when driving through flood waters is the adage "Turn Around Don't Drown®."

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How to drive through a flood

Sometimes flooding happens in a flash and what were previously clear, open roadways are suddenly covered with water, making for a tricky situation. While you're on the road and flooding begins to happen around you, you may not be able to follow "Turn Around Don't Drown®." Instead, following these safety tips to make sure you come out the other side both safe and secure:

1. Pay attention to barricades

Don't ignore them by driving past them.

2. Avoid driving through standing water

Water's powerful force can easily overtake vehicles caught in a flood. The average automobile can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water, and roads covered by water are prone to collapse. Attempting to drive through deep water also may stall your engine, with the potential to cause irreparable damage if you try to restart the engine. If you come upon a flooded street, try to take an alternate route.

3. Take extreme precaution while driving through deep water

If absolutely no alternate route is available to you, follow these guidelines if you must drive through deep water or flooded streets:

  • Do your best to estimate the depth of the water.
  • Drive slowly and steadily through the water.
  • Avoid driving in water with downed electrical or power lines.
  • Watch for items traveling downstream — they can trap or crush you if you're in their path.
  • Stay off your phone unless you must report severe injuries.
  • If your vehicle stalls in the deep water, you may need to restart the engine to make it to safety.
  • If you become trapped in rising water, immediately abandon your car for higher ground.
  • If you can't get out of your car safely, call 911 or get the attention of someone for help.

What to do once you've cleared deep waters

Once you've followed all of the safety precautions to get through deeper flood waters, test your brakes on a clear patch of road at low speed if the water you have driven through was up to the wheel rims or higher. You may also want to dry your brakes by pressing gently on the brake pedal with your left foot while maintaining speed. Both of these tips can help quickly remove some of the built-up water on the inside of your vehicle, and driving on clear roadways should help take care of the rest.

Pro tip:

It may be a good idea to get your car checked out by a professional after driving through flood water to make sure everything is working as it should.

Make sure you're protected from rising flood waters

New Progressive customers

The right auto insurance coverage can help pay to repair or replace your vehicle if your car has water damage due to flooding, heavy rains, and hailstorms. Get a car insurance quote online or call us at 1-866-749-7436.

Current Progressive customers

Adding comprehensive coverage to your auto insurance policy may come in home in handy if flood water has damaged anything under the hood. You can add coverage by logging into your policy or calling 1-866-749-7436.

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