Driving Through Floodwaters

Don’t drive through floodwater

Whether you are driving or walking, if you come to a flooded road, always remember this one simple rule: Turn Around, Don’t Drown.

This rule is extremely important because you won’t know the depth of the water, and you won’t know the condition of the road underneath the water.  

Remember that flooding can occur any time and anywhere, and as little as 15cm (6in) of fast-moving floodwater can knock you off your feet. 30cm (12in) of flowing flood water can move a car, while 60cm (24in) is enough to float most vehicles including sport utility vehicles and 4x4s. 

While most floods can’t be prevented, if you are outside or away from your home there are simple steps you can take to protect your life and property.

If flooding occurs:

  • Move to higher ground immediately and stay away from flood prone areas.
  • Do not allow children to play near high water, storm drains or ditches. Remember: hidden dangers often lie beneath the water.
  • Remember that significant dangers may be hidden by floodwaters, such as open drains and manholes. Never drive on a flooded road.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognise flood dangers.

Darron Burness, head of the AA’s flood rescue team, warns: "The 9,000 vehicles driven into floodwater that the AA attended last year tell only half the story. There are thousands of other drivers who, perhaps unwittingly, came so close to coming a cropper.

“Three-quarters of cars that get stuck are written-off as it only takes a tiny amount of ingested water to wreck the engine.  You're also putting yourself at risk as floodwater can mask all manner of hazards, for example open manholes, and just one foot or 30 centimetres of moving water can float your car.

"Moving floodwater, particularly, is powerful, relentless and deceptively dangerous, so just stay out."


Despite the risks involved, a survey by the Environment Agency and AA has revealed that two-thirds of drivers would risk their lives in flood. Useful information on safe driving in floods and heavy rain and be found on the AA's website.

Driving fast through standing water is:

  • dangerous - tyres will lose contact with the road and you will lose control of your vehicle’s steering. This is known as 'aquaplaning'. If you do experience aquaplaning, hold the steering wheel lightly and lift off the accelerator until the tyres regain grip.
  • inconsiderate - driving through water at speeds above a slow crawl throws water onto pavements, soaking pedestrians or cyclists.  It could also cause a wave or ‘surge’ of water that can flow over kerbs, walls and flood defences, causing major flood damage to buildings and property.

    Be warned: you could face a heavy fine and 3-9 points on your licence if the police believe you were driving without reasonable consideration for other road users.
  • expensive - the air intake on many cars is positioned low down at the front of the engine bay, and it only takes a small quantity of water sucked into the engine to cause serious damage. All engines are affected but turbo-charged and diesel engines are most at risk.