Sometimes Road Signs Speak the Truth – 1 (humor)

Sometimes, permanent traffic signs almost seem to be designed to be ignored (and therefore lose much of their safety value at relevant times).  One classic example of this, in the lower 48 states of the USA, might be the very common signs stating ‘Road Subject to Ice,’ but in a late July heatwave it’s a pretty safe bet they don’t mean ‘right now!’

Photograph of a school bus driving through floodwater.
The permanently positioned sign on the right reads ‘Water Over Roadway’ and it would seem to be telling the truth at this particular moment in time!  Clearly this is a relatively common event at this location.  (Copyright image, 2017.)

What about a permanently fixed sign that reads ‘Water Over Roadway,’ as in the photograph above?  Some drivers would appear to be born skeptics, so if you tend to simply ignore signs like this, then it’s important instead to be ultra-observant and look for any additional proof.  Be cautious until you have a definitive answer!

Photograph of salmon that have fatally left the rushing river and got themselves lost swimming through fast floodwaters across a road.
Salmon suicidally lost and following rushing floodwater across the road might just be a good clue. (Copyright image, 2017.)

Now, it’s all well and good us having some fun with road signs, but this is of course a very serious subject.  Vehicle occupants are killed in floodwater every year in America so any flooded road must be treated with extreme respect.

Photograph of a floodwater depth gauge on a roadside.
The depth of any floodwater on roads is critical. (Copyright image, 2017.)

Here are three important rules when you encounter flooded roads:

  1. If you cannot see how deep the water is, do not drive into it — period!
  2. Flowing water needs only be as little as eight inches deep to potentially wash you and your car away — don’t forget that your air-filled tires are effectively flotation devices (until the water gets deep and your vehicle might roll over!) — and if you end up getting swept into a river the danger is extreme, so be particularly wary of moving water.
  3. If you genuinely have to go through it — and we mean a critical scenario, not just convenience — drive slowly in water, so as not to build up a bow-wave and flood the electrics under the hood.  It’s the last place you want your car to cut out.

An the moral of this post is:  Don’t be too quick to ignore signs which at least some of the time could potentially save your life.  In the case of water across the road, it is perfectly feasible that you could arrive somewhere that has just suffered torrential rain and flooding while everywhere else you have passed through so far on your journey has been bone dry for months.  Places susceptible to flash floods can be particularly dangerous.

Finally, please be aware that unless conditions become critically unsafe, such as the issue of travel bans, we welcome the opportunity at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA], to work with drivers in bad weather.  What better way to demonstrate and teach the absolute maximization of safety!

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Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

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