The Washington area endured a deluge of rain over the weekend that continued into Monday, forcing the closure of some roads and leaving standing water in places all over the region.
Flooding was particularly bad in Anne Arundel County, where a portion of Defense Highway (Route 450) was closed Monday morning.
Flooded roads are a more common sight during the summer when we encounter fierce thunderstorms, but can happen anytime there’s heavy rainfall.
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.