Avoid driving in high water

Would you know what to do if you suddenly drove upon a water-covered road? It’s a scenario many drivers have faced in recent weeks due to heavy rainfall and flooding in Louisiana, Indiana and other parts of the country.

Flooding causes dangerous and life-threatening situations on the road, and because drivers don’t routinely face such perils while driving, they might not know what to do in high water conditions.

Driving through significant water can severely damage or total a car. It’s the cause of more than half of all flood-related deaths each year, with many occurring when cars are swept downstream, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the National Weather Service, it takes just 6 inches of flood water to knock a person over, while a foot of rushing water can sweep away a car. Two feet of rushing water can sweep away most vehicles, including sport-utility vehicles.

If you have to drive in water

It’s best to avoid roads where high water exists. If possible, turn your car around.

According to insurance provider Progressive, if there’s no other route or alternative and you must drive through water, drive slowly and steadily. Be sure not to drive in water with downed power lines, and watch out for items moving downstream.

If water rises around your car but the water isn’t moving, exit the car and move to higher ground, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Look for damage to your car

Driving through a significant amount of water can damage or even total a vehicle, especially if water gets sucked up by the air intake and floods the engine, which can then damage cylinders and displace pistons.

According to Esurance, flooding can also damage a car’s electrical and computer system, as well as cause brake and airbag malfunctions. Minor flooding can also lead to mold and rust, and cause interior damage.

If you’ve driven your vehicle in high waters, don’t start or run your car, if possible, to avoid damaging the engine.

It’s advised to check the oil level, as a high reading could signal engine problems.

Take note of how long the car was submerged in water, how high the water reached and whether it was fresh or salt water. Fresh water causes less damage.

Dealing with flood damage

If water damages your car, file a claim with your insurance company.

Water damage is typically covered by insurance if you buy a comprehensive insurance policy, which is often required to obtain a loan or to lease a vehicle, according to Allstate.

Comprehensive coverage typically doesn’t cover water damage to aftermarket equipment, such as stereos or GPS devices.

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