Don’t Drive Onto Flooded Roads and Highways, Expert Warns

April 11th, 2011 · No Comments · Environment and Geography, Health, News Release, Research

A local expert on water safety and survival has issued a stern warning to people who are taking risks by driving their vehicles over flooded roadways.

“Southern Manitoba is undergoing significant road flooding, which presents a potentially fatal scenario for unsuspecting motorists,” says Gordon Giesbrecht, associate dean (research), Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management. “Each year, up to ten per cent of all drownings in North America occur in submersed vehicles, and one tenth of those involve motorists who intentionally drive into floodwater covering roads.”

Giesbrecht explains that few people realize a vehicle can start floating in as little as 16-18″ (40-45 cm) of water. The problem is exacerbated if the water is flowing. Once the vehicle floats is can quickly be pushed off the road and over ditches, creeks or rivers where the water is deep enough for the vehicle to become submerged and drown its occupants.

He warns: “Remember, just because you drove over a road earlier does not mean it is safe now. Any road that is covered by water is dangerous.”

Giesbrecht offers two rules of prevention and preparation will save your life:

  1. Prevention: Stay away from water covered roads. You can’t drown on dry land.
  2. Preparation: If you do try to drive through water-for example because you think it is shallow or don’t think there is a current-undo your seatbelt and open your window(s) before reaching the water. That way, if you are wrong and your vehicle does float away, you will be able to exit through the window immediately.

Giesbrecht is head of the Laboratory for Exercise and Environmental Medicine where he has been studying the efficacy of various treatments for accidental hypothermia and the events that occur immediately after removing subjects from cold water immersion. His important, life-saving work has been featured on the Rick Mercer Report and The Late Show With David Letterman.

For more information, contact Gordon Giesbrecht, Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, at: 204-474-8646

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