Despite the popular perception of Texas being a dry Western state, heavy rainfall events brought about by severe storms are a part of life in the Lone Star State. Driving in Waco, Austin, or elsewhere in Texas can sometimes be a challenge even during good weather. When a large amount of precipitation falls in a short period of time, the roads in Texas can become downright dangerous.
You play a role in keeping yourself and your loved ones safe on the road during heavy rain events. By understanding the dangers that wet or flooded roadways pose to you and other motorists and planning ahead about how you will address these dangers, you may be able to reduce your risk of being involved in a rain-related Texas car accident.
How Do Heavy Rain and Wet Roads Affect a Motor Vehicle?
When a large amount of rain falls within a short amount of time, Texas roadways can become very dangerous for motorists. Rain that falls quickly does not have much time to be absorbed into the ground or run off from the roadways. As a result, it is often more dangerous to motorists for 2 inches (for example) to fall within an hour than for 4 inches to fall over several days.
As rain begins to accumulate on the roadway, car and truck tires lose the traction with the road that they have when the roads are dry. Initially, this means that it takes longer for a vehicle to stop than it normally would.
As more and more water accumulates on the road, eventually there will be a layer of water between the tires and the roadway because the car tire’s treads are unable to disperse all of the water beneath them. When this layer exists, the car can actually travel on top of the water, not the roadway. Normal braking maneuvers or turns can easily cause the driver of the car to lose control and skid or slide across the layer of water. This is called “hydroplaning” or “aquaplaning” and is a dangerous situation for the driver as well as other motorists. When a car hydroplanes, the driver of the car temporarily has no control over the direction or speed of the car, increasing the likelihood of a car accident.
Signs to Look For Before Hitting the Road
Protecting yourself and your loved ones from rain-related car crashes begins at home before you even leave your house. Take time to listen to the day’s weather report before you depart and know if rain is expected. If the skies appear cloudy, tune in to a local station or visit a trusted weather website to learn how much rain is expected and when the rain is expected to begin and end. If a heavy rain event is forecasted, begin making plans for alternate routes to your destination in case a road becomes impassible. For severe rain events, you may wish to remain indoors and not venture out.
If you must go out during a heavy rain storm, look at the roadways before you venture too far. Excessive rain on the roadway can give the roads a glassy, watery, or shiny appearance. Plan to give yourself extra time to reach your destination and implement other rain-related safe driving practices.
How to Avoid Driving Into a Flooded Roadway
The National Weather Service (NWS) reports that more people die each year as a result of flooding than from any other thunderstorm-related hazard. The NWS further reports that a sizeable number of these deaths (almost half of all flood-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) occur in automobiles as drivers attempt to drive through flooded roadways. Drivers continue to do so despite repeated warnings about how little water is actually necessary in order to sweep a car downstream (between 12 inches and 24 inches of moving water, depending on the size of the vehicle).
In order to avoid becoming another flood-related statistic, consider the following tips:
- If at all possible, do not attempt to drive through standing water. It is very difficult to estimate the depth of the water, especially at night. Even if your car is not swept away, your engine can stall due to the water and can lead to serious damage to your vehicle. If there is an alternate route to your destination that does not require driving through the flooded road, take the alternate route.
- If you must drive through the water, attempt to estimate the depth of the water first to determine if it is safe to attempt to cross. You may be able to determine how high the water is by watching other vehicles pass through the standing water (assuming, of course, there are other vehicles on this same roadway).
- Do not enter the water if you can see electrical lines in the water or large items traveling downstream. The power lines can transmit electricity through the water to you and your vehicle, causing catastrophic injuries or death. Large items floating downstream can trap you or crush you.
- Go through the water slowly and steadily.
- If you become stuck and water begins to rise, get out of your vehicle and attempt to get to higher ground. If you cannot do this, do everything in your power to get the attention of a passerby who is able to provide assistance.
The best way to stay safe when heavy rain has washed away part of a roadway is to find an alternate route to your destination or to consider staying with a friend or family member until the rain ceases and your
What to Do If You Get Caught in Heavy Rain
If your vehicle becomes stuck in standing water or is in danger of being swept away by moving water, you must act quickly to protect yourself and your loved ones. Leave your vehicle at once: do not stay inside your vehicle. Use the windows or doors to escape and make your way to higher ground. If you have a cell phone available, call for emergency assistance as soon as you can. Do not remain in your vehicle any longer than is absolutely necessary as you can become trapped and unable to escape if the water level rises.
If you do not have a cell phone and cannot make it to solid ground, call out for assistance and attempt to get someone’s attention. Keep yourself as high above the water as possible. If at all possible, do not get into the water as a current that is strong enough to sweep away a car can drown an individual. If you need to, use the roof of your car (assuming it is not submerged and the car is not being swept away).
If you or a loved one is injured in a heavy rain-related traffic accident because another driver did not drive safely, The Bob Richardson Law Firm may be able to help you obtain compensation for your injuries and losses. Call either our Austin or Waco office, or contact us online for assistance.