Driving in Flood Waters: Don't Do It!

Why Your Car is No Match for a Flood

Automobile sinking in water Sunset
It is NEVER safe to drive into flood waters. Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost / Getty Images

Did you know... Floods cause more fatalities than any other thunderstorm related weather hazard. Of that number, over half of these flood-related drownings happen when vehicles are driven into hazardous flood water. 

When Is It Safe to Drive Into Flood Waters?

Would you ever attempt to drive across a flooded road? What if the road was only covered with 12 inches (a ruler high) of water -- would you chance it then?

If you answered yes or maybe, you could one day potentially find yourself in a flood emergency. That's because the main reason people find themselves in trouble to begin with is that they underestimate the force and power of water. The next time you're tempted to ford flood waters, consider this:

  • 6 inches of water is enough to reach the bottom of most passenger cars and cause loss of control and possibly stall it.
  • 12 inches of fast-moving water can sweep away passenger cars.
  • 2 feet of rushing water can sweep away most vehicles, including your truck or SUV.

Even if there is less than 6, 12, or 24 inches of water you should still not drive through the roadway since you don't know what the road's condition may be underneath the water. For this reason, it is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters. 

Turn Around Don't Drown

One of the biggest ways people are being discouraged to is with the Turn Around, Don't Drown® campaign.

 The National Weather Service (NWS) has a national campaign to educate people around the world of the dangers of flooding. In fact, this national program is a trademarked slogan for flood safety.

Not only is TADD a trademarked weather safety slogan, it's also a legitimate road sign. The NWS has partnered with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to create two flood warning signs which can be posted along flooded roadways and those prone to flooding: a yellow cautionary sign with black lettering that reads "When Flooded, Turn Around, Don't Drown®", and a pink and black sign which states "Flooding Ahead Turn Around Don't Drown®".

The first is typically seen at locations where the incidence of flooding is high or the onset of flooding is rapid. The second sign is raised whenever flooding is occurring and could potentially impeded the normal flow of traffic.

Flood Safety Resources

Watch an 8 minute streaming video of flash flood safety. Then take the flood water driving safety quiz to check your knowledge.

  1. Check the river flood stage in your area.
  2. Get a free 16 page booklet on flooding.
  3. Get free posters, signs, and even a song for students on the TADD program.
  4. The physics of floods: A report of the dangers of flooding.


Updated by Tiffany Means