More than half (54%) of UK drivers would endanger themselves by driving through moving flood water, according to a joint Environment Agency and AA survey.
The research of 21,165 AA members, carried out by Populus, also revealed that more than a quarter (27%) of respondents would drive through moving flood water deeper than 30cm, which is enough to move a car.
The Environment Agency and the AA strongly advise not entering flood water that is moving or more than 10cm deep.
A third of flood-related deaths involve a vehicle because drivers take unnecessary risks.
Last year, the second wettest on record in the UK, claimed the lives of several motorists.
In the same period, the AA rescued almost 9,000 vehicles that had driven through or were stuck in flood water, with an estimated insurance bill of more than £34 million.
The survey found that:
- More than two-fifths (42%) of drivers would blindly follow the vehicle in front if it had crossed a flooded road successfully
- The equivalent of 680,000 drivers would ignore a ‘road closed’ warning sign and drive down a flooded road rather than take a short detour – this is dangerous, an offence and insurers could reject any flood damage claim
- People aged between 55 and 64 are most likely to risk driving through the deepest flowing flood water (up to 34cm);
- Men would attempt to drive through deeper water (up to 34cm) than women (up to 27cm);
- Those living in North East England would attempt to drive through deeper water (up to 34cm) than anywhere else in the UK.
Phil Rothwell, head of flood strategy and engagement at the Environment Agency, said: “Tragically people die because they’ve taken risks and attempted to drive through flood water just to save a few minutes.
“Flood water is dangerous, dirty and it can carry disease.
“If there is widespread flooding in your area then don’t travel and if a road is closed then turn around and make a detour. Your journey could take you a little longer but making the right decision could ultimately save your life.
“You can check the flood forecast on the Environment Agency website to help you plan.”
Darron Burness, head of the AA’s flood rescue team, said: "The 9,000 vehicles driven into flood water that the AA attended last year tell only half the story. There are thousands of other drivers who, perhaps unwittingly, came so close to coming a cropper.
"Three-quarters of cars that get stuck are written-off as it only takes a tiny amount of ingested water to wreck the engine.
"You're also putting yourself at risk as flood water can mask all manner of hazards, for example open manholes, and just one foot or 30 centimetres of moving water can float your car.
"Moving flood water, particularly, is powerful, relentless and deceptively dangerous, so just stay out."