Hundreds Defy Advice and Drive into Danger
“Turn around, don’t drown.”
Meteorologists and public safety experts repeat this refrain every year as severe weather sweeps across the country. Nevertheless floods kill 127 Americans on average every year, with anywhere from half to two-thirds of those deaths occurring in vehicles according to The Weather Channel and the National Weather Service. Hurricane Harvey’s flood waters have killed several people, including a family of six found dead after the flood swept their van away. The statistics are clear: in a flood, your car is a death trap.
Driving deaths and injuries occur in floods when drivers hit pools and spin off the road, according to a Vox report. Drivers hit the water, stall and get stuck as the water is rising, and are carried off in the current. Jon Erdman with the Weather Channel wrote six inches of water will reach most vehicles’ floors, a foot will float many vehicles, and two feet of rushing water can carry most vehicles away including SUVs and pickups.
Drivers can also hit trees or other debris hidden underwater, or drive into collapsed road sections likewise unseen.
Despite repeated, constant warnings from experts, drivers keep plowing into floodwaters. Many die trapped in their vehicles or while attempting to escape.
“As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle, and as little as two feet of water will carry most cars away,” the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states in a release on their website.
Researchers in New South Wales, Australia studied driver behavior at road barricades during flood events. Risk management expert Andrew Gissing said 84 percent of drivers during the event drove past road closure barricades into flood waters.
“The large proportion are males and those driving four-wheel drive vehicles,” Gissing said. “It is very hard to assess the risks — you don’t know how fast the water is travelling under the road, you don’t know the condition of the road that you’re about to drive on. It may be there’s a huge hole in the road and you’re going to get stuck in the middle and washed away.”
Dr. Greg Forbes, a severe weather expert for The Weather Channel, said flood waters flowing at just 6 miles per hour exert the same force per unit areas as air blowing at EF-5 tornado wind speeds. Water moving at 25 miles per hour has pressure equal to wind blowing at 790 miles per hour – faster than the speed of sound.
Experts all agree: the best choice is to never drive in flood waters at all. If you don’t know how deep the water is, if you can’t see the bottom, the danger is simply too great.
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