‘If it’s flooded, Forget It’! This is the message the Queensland government introduced following the 2011 floods. Many of us will have heard the saying, aimed at reducing flood accidents, but is it really working?
In May 2015 five people died in flood accidents, trying to cross floodwaters during a heavy downpour in Caboolture. The Royal Life Saving Society Australia found that 54% of all flood-related deaths between 2002 and 2012 stemmed from driving through flood waters. With the possible threat of flooding this summer, fire fighters are again urging people to stay out of floodwaters, as the moment you drive through you lose control and risk injury or even death.
So what happens if you are injured as a passenger in a vehicle driven though floodwaters? We take a look.
Over the last 20 years to 2014 at least 81 people have died driving though floodwater in Australia, accounting for 43% of all flood fatalities over this period. Of these fatalities 35% were driving 4WD vehicles.
Many people assume their vehicle can handle the water, especially those driving a 4WD, but the reality is there is no safe time to enter the floodwaters. Flood accidents can happen to anyone – no matter the car they drive. For example, did you know?
- Even gently moving floodwater can wash away the road surface beneath;
- Side force on the vehicle in a flooded creek can be up to 100 tonnes, washed off in seconds;
- A car can be taken away in as little as 60cms of water;
- Fully equipped swift water technicians will only enter the water as a last resort.
Despite all of the facts people often drive into floodwaters, and continue to do so despite educational campaigns.
Drivers of vehicles must remember that they owe their passenger/s, as well as other road users, a duty of care to keep them safe and to drive with due care and diligence (among other things). If they fail in this duty and another party has suffered personal injury as a result then they are liable in negligence.
So what are your rights if you are injured as a passenger in a vehicle that is driven through flood waters?
It is likely that the Court will find the driver of a vehicle who drove through flooded waters has breached their duty of care owed to the passengers of the vehicle. Should this be the case, the passengers then have the right to bring a claim for the personal injury they have suffered against the driver/CTP Insurer of the vehicle.
This type of claim is brought under the Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994 (Qld). An injured party may be entitled to be compensated for the following:
- the pain and suffering and loss of amenities of life the injury has caused;
- past and future expenses with regards to the various types of medical treatment, pharmaceuticals, travel costs etc;
- past and future economic loss;
- past and future care and assistance costs.
Although many of us would not intentionally drive in the extreme wet weather conditions sometimes the weather can very quickly change and you can suddenly find yourself driving in unexpected wet weather (such as a quick moving storm).
Should this be the case the Queensland government has the following safety tips for motorists:
- drive slowly—to avoid aquaplaning and skidding
- drive with your lights on low beam (it is easier to see with low beam in fog)
- use your air conditioner or demister to keep your windscreen clear of condensation
- double the distance between you and the car in front
- avoid breaking suddenly or accelerating or turning quickly—to reduce your chances of skidding
- do not drive on unsealed roads
- use road line markings to stay in the middle of your lane—in wet weather it is more important than ever to stay in the correct position on the road
- do not drive on roads covered with water (even partially covered)
- watch out for landslides—heavy rain can cause layers of rock and soil to move
- stay away from stagnant water by the side of the road (it can be very bad for your health).
If the extreme wet weather or fast moving storm has caused flash flooding the following tips are provided by the Queensland Government to help you stay safe while driving in flooded areas and avoid flood accidents:
- obey road closure signs
- when floodwater starts to go down, don’t drive over the roads until the road is open again. Sometimes the road damage is not known until the road is completely dry and is being driven on again
- drive carefully on roads that have been reopened because they may still be drying out
- look out for landslides as many roadsides will have exposed layers of rocks and soil that could slip.
Driving in wet weather can be very dangerous. Excessive rain can lead to flooding, and flood waters can move very fast, making driving through them extremely dangerous.