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Don’t drive through flood water

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It is amazing how quickly our country can go from drought to record flooding.  As one half of Australia seems to be burning, the other half seems to be under water.  This cycle is well recorded in Australian history, although the climate change argument suggests these extremes of weather will be more frequent.

As roads flood, we are constantly reminded to never drive through flood waters.  Unfortunately each year people die in flooded rivers, often trying to drive their vehicle across flooded rivers to get home or to work.

However many Australian roads have causeways that often have water running over them.  Is this flood water too?  We live on a road with a low causeway that often has water running over it, and after heavy rain, the crossing becomes impassable.  I have often asked myself at what point will this crossing become impassable?

Subaru crossing a shallow causeway

Crossing a Causeway

From Summer 2012/13

Of course it is difficult to say, however there are a few rules I follow.

  • Know the base of the crossing – in this case it is concrete.
  • Visually observe the approach and departure.  If I cannot see the edges of the concrete, the road may have washed away.
  • Check the depth markers – any more than 30 centimeters and I will not enter the crossing
  • Drive steadily through the water at a slow speed.  (1st gear or if in a 4WD 2nd gear low range)
  • Be prepared to wait a day or two for the water to come down

The real risk will be at the end of a long day or night at work, and being confronted with a flooded crossing a couple hundred metres from our front gate.

Causeway through windscreen of car

Take the time to pause and assess your options before driving through

From Summer 2012/13

It is really important to be able to see the approaches to the causeway.  We had friends on a nearby road that was flooded attempt to drive through the water.  The water was only about 20 centimeters over the road, however it had scoured out a huge hole just before the crossing.  They were unable to see the hole in the muddy water and gently drove in.  As the front of the car sank into the hole they desperately tried to stop.  Luckily for them, the water pushed the car back onto the road, and they got out.  The car’s engine was destroyed, but thankfully they were uninjured.

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service have published a really useful guide on the dangers of driving through flood water.  Called If It’s Flooded – Forget It, it can be found here:


Please don’t drive through flood water and become the next victim – if not for your sake, but for your family and the Emergency Services personnel who risk their lives trying to save yours.


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