Sunday, November 16, 2008

Driving in water

Today I went out to the house we're renovating and (hopefully) renting out. While we were there a thunderstorm hit. It was one of the most severe storms we've had all year. There was lightning and thunder and high winds, broken power lines, power poles down, trees all over the place and flash flooding. It was magnificent.

I love storms but that's a story for another entry, I think. I hate driving in them.

We waited until the worst of it had passed - at least enough that we could see the road through the rain - then set out for home. The highway between Ipswich and Brisbane was flooded in several sections. I was absolutely amazed at how many people have no idea how to drive in water, although I suppose it's understandable - we haven't had any water for a long time. They were all just driving into the water at the same speed they'd normally drive. It's no wonder they just planed across the top of it (didn't give the tyres any time to grip the road) and slammed into other cars. There were also cars stopped along the side of the road - obviously hit the water too hard and it got into the engine and stopped the car. Nobody dried their brakes afterwards either. I'm surprised there weren't more accidents.

When we were growing up, floods were common. There was at least one every year and if we wanted to get to the next town, we had to drive through water. My father always explained to us the process of driving through water safely.

1. If there's been some rain around, check road reports before you leave. You don't want to get caught between to rising causeways and have no escape route.
2. Check the water level on the road - most country roads have signs at causeways that indicate the depth of water. If it's too deep, turn around and go back home. If it's rising, get out of there fast. If it's moving but not rising, get out and check it. If it's deep and you can feel the drag of the water when it's only a few inches deep, turn around and go back home. You don't want to be washed away.
3. Always stop and allow other cars to get clear of the water before you enter it. The last thing you want is their backwash getting into your engine.
4. Always use low gear, go slowly and never, never stop once you get into the water. Keep moving, slowly and steadily.
5. Once you're clear of the water, use your brakes. Apply slow gentle pressure repeatedly to warm the brakes and dry them out. Another last thing you want is to try to use your brakes further down the road and not have any.

That was it. Five basic things to do. I don't know if it's because we've been in a drought for so long people have forgotten, or never been taught, how to drive in water or because they think that if they're in the city they shouldn't need to worry about those things. I do know there were a lot of stalled and damaged cars out there this afternoon and I firmly believe most of it could have been avoided.

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