Updated: May 16, 2018

Much of the Northeast has been dealing with heavy rainfall over the last few days, and there’s more to come. The rain has led to some scary scenes in parts of the Washington area, where water flooded roadways and forced some water rescues. The rain and related damage also led to the suspension of Brunswick Line Rail service.

The most extreme flooding came in the area of Frederick, Maryland where floodwaters submerged cars and closed more than two dozen roads. Frederick reportedly got six inches of rain in a two-hour period Tuesday.

This may be a good time to remind drivers to take precautions when driving in the rain and to avoid flooded roadways. The Centers for Disease Control reports that half of all flood-related drownings happen when someone drives into flood water, and the New York Times reported that there are roughly 400 such deaths in North America each year.

Twelve inches of rushing water can move a small car, and two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, the CDC said.

If you do find yourself trapped in a car in floodwaters, the smartest thing to do is escape through your car window to the top of your vehicle, according to experts interviewed by the New York Times.

If you don’t believe the power of rushing flood waters, check this video from the floods in Ellicott City last year: https://youtu.be/Lo1nM0tv4Ds

Here are some tips on from the American Automobile Association:

  • Do not attempt to drive through flooded roads. Just a few inches of water can turn your vehicle into a boat,and could put your life, and the lives of those around you, at great risk. There is also a danger of asphyxiation if your tailpipe becomes filled with water. Turn around; find another way to get to your destination. Pull over to a safe location if needed.
  • Slow down and increase following distances. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. When it rains, visibility is reduced and braking distances increase.
  • Slowing down in the rain also minimizes car repairs. Many motorists try to move fast through puddles, but it’s actually better for your car if you go slowly. Driving fast can force the water to splash up into your car’s undercarriage and cause damage. Your vehicle could suffer electrical problems and other issues caused by water damage – and many of the repairs involve SUV’s because people mistakenly think they are safe to drive through standing water.
  • Don’t Drive Distracted. Eliminate as many distractions behind the wheel, such as cell phone use. Put your phones away! Disconnect and Drive.
  • Watch out for hydroplaning. No car is immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces, including four-wheel drive vehicles.
  • Alert drivers behind you that you’re slowing with your brake lights. Without anti-lock brakes, squeeze the brakes until they are about to lock up and then release. With anti-lock brakes, use the same move – but don’t pump the brakes, which would work against the operation of the ABS system. Slow down as you approach a pothole.
  • Buckle up, slow down, and keep a safe distance from the car in front of you.