Four Good Reasons to Never Drive Through a Flooded Roadway

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Flooded Alberta Highway

There are a variety of rationales for why motorists should never drive through a stretch of road that's been flooded. Yet all too often - perhaps due to the perception that the water levels aren't that high or sheer laziness - many people will do this very thing.

Besides the car losing grip with the road surface, there are several other explanations for why it's never a good idea to risk wading through a flooded road. contributor Eric Lai recently listed several of them.


Today’s vehicles tend to ride low

One of the biggest ones has everything to do with how the modern-day vehicle is constructed, according to Lai. Many of today's vehicles are built low to the ground. This means that there's a precious little amount of clearance between the floor of a car and the road before water can interfere with the mechanics of a vehicle. This is especially true for the exhaust system. Not only that, but what may seem like a relatively low level of water can seep into a car's interior with relative ease.

Hydroplaning always a risk when water is present

Another reason why it should be avoided is because of hydroplaning. Typically, when motorists think about this type of slippage, it's when they're driving at a high rate of speed and when there's a thin coating of water. However, Lai noted that hydroplaning can occur in just about any instance in which water is present, no matter how deep or how shallow.

Loss of control

When on a hilltop, the laws of gravity and physics cause a vehicle to coast down at a quick speed, depending on how fast a driver was going at the top. But this type of inertia is not found when there's lots of water around. Lai said that almost immediately upon entering the water - usually when it's at least 15 centimeters deep - motorists will find that they decelerate quickly. This then often leads to drivers losing control of their car completely.

A select few vehicles are built to withstand floods

There are a handful of car types that can navigate through high water levels, Lai said. This includes African safari-type vehicles and some SUVs. Some have snorkel-like contraptions built along the side of them, providing the engine an airway to breathe from without being affected by the water. However, few Canadians purchase these vehicles and they are the antithesis of what happens with most cars in the situations - namely, they incur significant damage because a lot of water is either sucked into the engine, enters the interior, or both.

There are those instances - rare though they may be - where motorists have no choice but to drive through flooding, Lai said. This was the case for many Albertans and Ontarians after record-levels of water drenched the respective provinces over several days. If, by chance, their car seems to be working fine despite driving through flooded waters, motorists should still consult with an auto mechanic.

"Running it, or even just trying to start it, may cause severe damage if water has gone anywhere it shouldn't," said Lai.

Due to the prevalence of car insurance claims providers have received, the government of Alberta recently released a primer on what consumers should know if they have a flooded vehicle or if they've purchased one in error, not knowing at the time that it was flood-damaged. Among other things, motorists can file a complaint with the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council. For those who have yet to purchase a car but want to ensure they don't buy one that's been damaged, they can purchase a vehicle information report from their nearest Alberta registry.