Floodwaters are an unknown entity. Even if they appear relatively shallow, it is easy to underestimate the force of the water. It only takes a few centimetres of water to shift and float a full-size car.

Flooding is the most common natural disaster in Australia.

Flooding is dangerous and can increase your risk of drowning due to:

  • Conditions changing quickly
  • Flash flooding, with intense bursts of rainfall which cause sudden and rapid movement of floodwater
  • Strong currents, which often make it difficult to tell the speed of the current in floodwater
  • Water visibility changing and hiding hazards such as submerged objects (eg, trees and fallen powerlines) and animals (eg, snakes and crocodiles)
Dangers of Floodwater
Drowning deaths each year due to flooding
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Being swept away
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Driving into floodwater
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Falling into floodwater

Why can’t I drive in floodwater?

Even if the water is not very high, it is extremely dangerous to drive in floodwater. Floodwater can hide objects underwater and the quality of the road which may have been weakened or even washed away. Drivers also underestimate the amount of force water can create to displace a car – it only requires 10 to 12 cm of water to cause a car to float.

Further information

Hamilton K, Peden AE, Pearson M, Hagger MS (2016) Stop there's water on the road! Identifying key beliefs guiding people’s willingness to drive through flooded waterways. Safety Science 86, 308-314. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2016.07.004 (IF = 2.157; SJR = Q1; H = 81)

Peden AE, Franklin RC, Leggat P, Aitken P. Causal Pathways of Flood Related River Drowning Deaths in Australia. PLOS Currents Disasters. 2017 May 18. Edition 1. doi:10.1371/currents.dis.001072490b201118f0f689c0fbe7d437

Hamilton K, Peden AE, Keech JJ, Hagger MS (2018) Driving through floodwater: exploring driver decisions through the lived experience. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction Available online 26 December 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2018.12.019

Peden AE, Franklin RC, Leggat P (2018) The Flood-Related Behaviour of River Users in Australia. PLOS Currents Disasters 2018 Jun 14. Edition 1. doi: 10.1371/currents.dis.89e243413a0625941387c8b9637e291b

Hamilton K, Price S, Keech JJ, Peden AE, Hagger MS (2018) Drivers’ experiences during floods: Investigating the psychological influences underpinning decisions to avoid driving through floodwater. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 28: 507-518. doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2017.12.013 (IF = 1.603; SJR = Q1; H = 20)

Peden AE, Franklin RC (2019) Exploring Flood-Related Unintentional Fatal Drowning of Children and Adolescents Aged 0-19 Years in Australia. Safety 5(3) DOI:10.3390/safety5030046

More people drown in inland waterways than any other location in Australia
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