Weather forecasters predict parts of Australia will experience heavy rain and possible flooding over late 2020 and early 2021. Motorists should brush up on their wet weather driving skills to keep safe in the conditions.
What is the La Niña weather phase?
The ‘La Niña’ weather phase has caused the country’s wettest months on record. The last La Niña events were between 2010 and 2012, with widespread flooding across parts of Queensland.
The Bureau of Meteorology suggests this season’s La Niña won’t reach the severity of 2010-12. Rainfall is expected to peak in December, coinciding with many Australians hitting the road to visit family and friends over the Christmas period.
Tips for driving during flash flooding
Here are some things to consider before driving in areas affected by flooding.
Avoid driving during flooding
Rather than risk driving during flooding, the best tip is to avoid travelling at all. If you’ve prepared an emergency kit for storm season, your best option is to sit the flood out at home. Of course, natural disasters aren’t predictable, so you may be forced to travel.
Take an alternative route, if possible
If you know there’s flooding in an area, take an alternative route where flooding is less likely. If you are unfamiliar with the area, ask a local for advice or use a map. It’s better to take a longer, safer journey than risk driving through flood water.
How to drive through flood water
Overwhelmingly the safer option when it comes to flood water is to avoid driving through it. Driving through flood water is incredibly dangerous and should only be attempted in absolute emergencies, like seeking medical assistance. If you are forced to drive through flood water, here’s some guidance.
Check the depth of the flood water
You should try and get an idea of how deep flood water is before you drive through it. Most cars aren’t built to drive in water – a depth of more than 10cm can begin to cause trouble. 4WDs and cars with special equipment can tackle deeper water.
If you know the area, you should be able to estimate how high the flood water is compared to the usual landscape. Flood water is typically murky, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to gauge depth by looking in the water.
If other drivers are considering crossing, let them attempt it first and gauge the water depth based off their car.
Tips to remember when crossing flood water
- Make sure your crossing is necessary. Flood waters can conceal damaged roads and underwater obstacles and debris. The current in floods are often strong enough to move a car, causing it to lose traction or be pushed off course. Only attempt a crossing as a last resort.
- Before you begin crossing, make sure you are clear of any oncoming or overtaking traffic. The splash from another vehicle could force water into your car, affecting your engine or other components. Consider winding your windows down slightly – it will make opening your doors easier if you get stuck.
- Stick to the highest point in the road. Typically, this will be the centre line although uneven roads may be higher in one lane than another.
- Drive at a steady, slow speed. Think of the speed you’d drive in a crowded carpark – around 5-8 km/h. Flooring it into the water is dangerous, as it can cause your tyres to lose grip and will increase the severity of any collision with submerged debris.
- Don’t stop driving while crossing. If you stop, you increase the risk of water damaging and perhaps stalling your car. Keep your revs up.
- Once you’re through the flood water, make sure to check your car for any damage once it’s safe to do so. Dry your brakes by pressing them gently several times and be aware you may need additional braking time in case they don’t dry completely.
- If your car stalls or you become stuck while crossing the flood water, stay calm. Signal for help if people are nearby or use your phone or radio to call for help.
Is it illegal to drive through flood water?
There is no law which specifically outlaws driving through flood water. However, this doesn’t mean drivers aren’t opening themselves up to legal consequences. If property is damaged or people injured while crossing flood water, the driver may be liable.
Injured in a car accident during flooding? We’re here to help
If you or a loved one has been in an accident during flood conditions, you may be able to make a claim against the driver responsible.
Shine Lawyers’ team of motor vehicle claim experts can help you through the legal process to get you back on your feet. Get in touch today for an obligation-free consultation, where we will examine all your legal options. Our motor vehicle claims are run with a No Win, No Fee Guarantee*, so you won't pay legal fees if your claim isn't succesful.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: November 9, 2020.