If You See This While Driving, Turn Around Immediately, CDC Says

This common summer sight presents a potentially fatal risk to you and your passengers.

With the weather warming up and summer Fridays back on the calendar, many people are eagerly planning weekend road trips once again. Of course, you don't need us to tell you that driving anywhere comes with risks, but there's one particularly pressing safety concern on the roads this summer that experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) want you to be aware of. Before you get behind the wheel for your next trip, read on to discover the surprising danger that could put you at risk for serious injury this summer.

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If you see flood water on the road, the CDC says turn around immediately.

warning sign indicating the presence of flood water
Shutterstock/Kirsty Nadine

If you're on the road and you notice flood water ahead, the CDC recommends that you turn around immediately. Flood water can rise quickly, and even a small amount of water can present a fatality risk for experienced swimmers who get out of their car to walk, the health authority explains.

In fact, according to 2020 data from the National Weather Service, over the past 30 years, floods have caused more fatalities than lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter, or cold.

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Just six inches of flood water can render your car inoperable.

car in flood water

Even if the flood water in front of you doesn't seem particularly deep, or if there is no signage present alerting you to hazardous conditions ahead, driving through areas with any flood water still presents a serious safety risk.

The National Weather Service reports that as little as six inches of water standing can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles; and six inches of moving water can cause people walking in flood water to fall. A foot of water can cause your car to float, and two feet of moving water can carry your car away. While turning around to avoid flood water entirely is the best course of action, the National Weather Service recommends evacuating and moving to higher ground when it's possible to do so safely if flood water has risen around your car.

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If your car is trapped in fast-moving water, stay inside.

driving car in rainy weather

While safe evacuation of a car in rising flood water is possible, if your car is trapped in fast-moving water, Ready.gov, the U.S. government-sponsored emergency preparedness resource, recommends staying inside your vehicle. If water has infiltrated and is rising within your car, climb onto its roof.

In addition to drowning, flood water can present the risk of disease.

Rear view of woman caressing ill man in hospital ward

Losing control of your car or drowning aren't the only safety concerns flood water presents. According to the CDC, flood water can be contaminated with chemicals and hazardous waste, and may even contain wild animals, vehicles, pieces of lumber, and other items that can cause injury.

The health authority notes that contaminated flood water may put you at risk for contracting tetanus, rashes, digestive illnesses, wound infections, and, in rarer cases, leptospirosis, a bacterial infection. If you do come into contact with flood water, wash your body thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible, wash your clothes with detergent in hot water, treat any wounds, and contact a healthcare professional if you have concerns.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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