“Turn around don’t drown” isn’t working—at least not to its full potential. Meteorologists and media outlets couldn’t be more clear about the dangers of high or rushing water. Heck, television live trucks posted up in front of submerged cars apparently aren’t even strong enough visual cues to keep people away.
There may be some other reasons that the mantra isn’t connecting. Meteorologist Melissa Huffman of the National Weather Service in Houston and thewxsocial.com suggests a multitude of reasons. Perhaps it could be that drivers are in areas with which they are unfamiliar. Maybe the threat has greatly increased from the time people get into their car, where warning information is limited, to the time they encounter a hazard. “Even when there is ample warning availability, even when there is visual confirmation that the hazard is occurring, there is still an incredible difficulty in personalizing the threat that flooding poses,” Huffman explains.
Research has shown that people need pictures or video of a specific hazard in recognizable locations to fully evaluate danger and take the proper action. Even still, if a person has (perhaps, luckily) avoided a particular hazard before, the “it won’t happen to me” mentality takes over inviting maladaptive responses. Put simply, humans are very poor assessors of risk.
Meteorologists and social scientists fear that for most, water just isn’t scary enough. Flooding doesn’t carry the same dread factor as a hurricane or tornado. The fact remains however, that water, flooding, kills more people in the United States on an annual basis than either of the other hazards. Some of the more egregious offenders of this risk, live to tell about it.
Clearly, an extreme video—you would expect rushing water like that to even deter of the likes of Evil Knievel, let alone an average motorist. But streets turned river aren’t required for floodwater to take life and property. Over the mild terrain of the Southern United States, drivers take to poorly draining, flooded roads during and after common thunderstorms.
An example would be the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There, roads likes Acadian Thruway at the railroad underpass, Essen Lane, Jefferson Highway, Nicholson Drive, River Road and Sherwood Forest—are all typical trouble spots that find ponded water after heavy rain. Sure, the water may not be gushing, but several inches can still cause serious problems.
Most don’t compute that six inches of water can knock over an adult and a foot of water can float most cars. Surely, there are reasons, good-natured ones at that. “I drive this road every day,” or “I need to get my kids from school,” then perhaps the most common, “I need to get to work.”
No matter the explanation, each has an equally strong counterpoint. You don’t know if the road has been washed away beneath. Your kids would rather their parent be safe than on-time. Your employer should care more about your safety than their job (Oh they don’t? I know this guy named Chris Nakamoto…).
In all seriousness, you need to get to work and you need to earn your pay. But if it’s really about collecting a paycheck, realize that driving across a flooded road could set you back way more than a day or week of pay.
According to cartalk.com, once water reaches the doors and the engine stalls, your wallet is going to open up like a floodgate. Expect damage to carpets, floor mats, door panels and the trunk liner. Seats and any motion mechanics or sensors will need to be replaced. Water will get into the gas tank as well and thus need drained. The brakes will need to be replaced. Finally, the biggest issues will come from engine damage. Water in the cylinders and transmission will need to be drained.
Especially when nobody is hurt, we regularly dismiss pictures of stalled vehicles and say, “not me.” Especially when we’ve driven it before, we regularly look at a flooded street and say, “I can make it.” I quote Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank and say, “stop the madness!” Stop providing WBRZ, and other media outlets around the world, with images of stalled cars on flooded roads.
Should the driver of a stalled car make it off of a flooded street unhurt, the repercussions are still harsh. After factoring in a rental car, the owner of a small to medium vehicle stalled out in floodwater can expect to pay $7,000 – $10,000 out of pocket or file through insurance risking rate hikes. By the way, unless the car is brand new, many insurers and shops would consider your car totaled.
Is THAT really worth it?
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