Drivers are being warned to stay out of flood water as research showed that last year’s Christmas Eve was the busiest day in the past five years for flood rescues.
On that single day, the AA rescued 642 vehicles from flood water with many coming to grief in swollen fords.
The Environment Agency issued 450 flood warnings and alerts in the same period.
John Seymour, national manager of The AA’s flood rescue team, said: “In the Christmas dash, it’s understandable that sometimes people’s minds are elsewhere but no one wants to be writing a last-minute letter to Father Christmas after wrecking their car in flood water.
“Fords are a particular hazard as they can look quite benign and people often just assume they’re safe to cross without checking the depth gauge but they can quickly become impassable, particularly following heavy rain.
“If you’re at all unsure, it’s safer to go the long way round rather than put yourself and your vehicle at risk.”
A poll of 19,887 AA members found the average maximum depth of flowing flood water that respondents would be happy to drive through rather than turn back is 36cm – an increase of 4cm from October 2013 – but it only takes as little as 30cm to float a car.
More than a third (35%) would have no qualms about driving through water deeper than 30cm; and, more alarmingly, eight per cent (6% male vs 13% female) said they would enter flowing flood water more than a metre deep.
Those in Wales, Eastern England and the South-west gave the lowest depths (34cm each); and drivers in North-east England and Northern Ireland would put themselves at the greatest risk (38cm and 39cm, respectively).
Overall, more than four-fifths (81%) would enter water more than 10cm deep but the AA and the Environment Agency advise drivers not to enter flood water that is moving or more than 10cm (4in) deep.
John Curtin, director of incident management and resilience at the Environment Agency said: “If you’re in any doubt then turn around and find a detour – that’s far less inconvenient than losing your vehicle and potentially your life. Our flood warning information on gov.uk is updated every 15 minutes and can help anyone plan a safe journey.”