This part of the country is getting lot of rain right now: in fact, lots of Indiana is getting flooded right now. Over 3.5 inches of rain hit Indianapolis over this past weekend, for example, with traffic having to deal with street closures and cars getting flooded by rapidly rising water. As temperatures drop this week, that rainfall was predicted to turn into snow by the beginning of the workweek. Wet, cold winter weather: something that Indiana and Illinois folk know all too well and still we see serious accidents and sadly, tragic deaths, every winter season.
Weathercasters are warning those who live on the White River that they may see water rising up to 2 feet over the next few days. Snow is expected this week, as well. Creeks and rivers all around the Indianapolis area are expected to flood and jump their banks; local residents are being warned to this possibility and through out the area, law enforcement officials are posting rising water warnings and barricading roads where flood waters may endanger drivers.
Local drivers are known for disregarding road warnings of flood waters and road barricades to block traffic through flood waters, despite state and county regulations against drivers going through the roadway and ignoring the warnings or barricades. For many, they drive safely on — no fine, no ticket, and no damage to their vehicle or harm to them or their passengers.
Government Duty to Warn of Dangerous Water on Roadways: Turn Around, Don’t Drown
However, the risk of driving through even a seemingly low amount of water on a road can be dangerous and people die every year from getting caught in flood waters. It is the official’s duty to warn of high water and set up those roadside barricades; however, it is also important for the driver to respect the barricade even if the water doesn’t seem to be that high, or if it doesn’t seem to be moving. Families may have the opportunity to file wrongful death actions for failure to post the proper warnings of water dangers on the roads after a loved one has perished in a flooding accident, but these plaintiffs would much prefer to have that loved one alive instead.
Even Standing Water on a Road Can Cause a Traffic Death in Flood Conditions
Standing water that seems innocent enough on a roadway can still have enough power to push that car into deeper water with tragic consequences. The government warning of “turn around, don’t drown” is a wise one.
For example, there are already news stories of a young Ball State University student who has tragically perished after his vehicle was swept away in rising flood waters on State Road 26. According to news reports, the boy drove his car through standing water on the road and the water moved the vehicle across the lanes and into a ditch, where the force of the floodwaters turned the car over, rolling it so that the passenger compartment was upside-down and water filled the car’s interior. Despite rescue efforts, the car was submerged for over 12 minutes in the killing, icy cold flood waters.
NHTSA Issues Safety Warning for Driving Vehicles in Winter Weather
- Visit your mechanic for a periodic safety inspection and to address routine vehicle maintenance.
- Have your vehicle checked thoroughly for fluid leaks and any other needed parts, repairs, or replacements.
- Have your starting system battery checked for sufficient voltage. When the temperature drops, so does battery power. Be aware that it takes more cranking power to start your vehicle in cold weather. Also, be sure the connections are properly tightened and free of corrosion. If necessary, clean them with a solution of baking soda and water.
- Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and that it’s designed to withstand the winter temperatures you might experience in your area. A 50/50 mix of coolant to water is sufficient for most regions of the country. See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations.
- If your engine cooling system hasn’t been flushed (draining the system and replacing the coolant) for several years, have it done now. Over time, the rust inhibitors in antifreeze break down and become ineffective. Coolant also needs to be refreshed periodically to remove dirt and rust particles that can clog the cooling system and cause it to fail.
- Make sure your windshield wipers and defrosters are working properly. Refill the windshield washer reservoir as needed with high-quality, “no-freeze” washer fluid.
- Before you drive, remove snow and ice from all of your vehicle’s windows and mirrors and keep them clean to maintain the best visibility. Also, be sure to clear snow and ice from your vehicle’s roof and hood to ensure good visibility for both you and following motorists.
- Check tire pressure and make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver’s side doorjamb (called the “B-pillar”). If a vehicle does not have a B-pillar, then the placard is placed on the rear edge of the driver’s door. Tire pressure drops as the temperature drops. Properly inflated tires ensure optimum tire performance and optimum vehicle driving range.
- Keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle at all times and check pressure when tires are “cold” – meaning they haven’t been driven on for at least three hours.
- Check your tire tread depth and make sure you are using a tire appropriate for the winter driving conditions you may encounter. If the winter season means sleet, slush and snow-covered roads in your area or where you’re traveling to, consider replacing tires when they reach approximately 5/32″ of remaining tread depth. If you regularly encounter severe winter driving conditions, you may consider a dedicated winter/snow tire for optimum traction.
- Stock your vehicle with essentials in the event of an emergency including a snow shovel, broom, ice scraper, jumper cables, flashlight, warning devices (flares, reflective markers, etc.) and blankets for protection from the cold. A mobile phone, water, food, and any necessary medicines may prove useful if you become stranded.
- If road conditions are hazardous, wait until road and weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle.
- If you do become stranded, don’t run your car for long periods with the windows up or in an enclosed space to avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically – just long enough to stay warm.
- Motorists are also reminded to make safety their number one priority when they drive by bringing in their vehicles for a free fix when it’s been recalled; never driving distracted or drunk; wearing seat belts and obeying state laws.