5 Safety tips for riders wading through flood

When pulling over is not your option
by Aris Ilagan | Jun 22, 2018


Were you among the riders recently caught in the midst of a nasty thunderstorm that hit Metro Manila? Did you stop riding and seek refuge in a safe place when flashfloods affected several low lying areas? Or did you opt to take the risk and continue riding?

For one reason or another, some riders just won’t pull over and wait for the rain to stop and for flooding to subside. The urgency might involve an emergency situation, an important family errand (like paying electricity bills within the day to avoid disconnection), or to attend to a wife giving birth. In scenarios like these, we believe that not even the devil can stop you.

In such cases, extreme caution must be observed by riders. Here in the Philippines, it’s not surprising to see open manholes, floating trash, road construction, and loose live wires that could worsen the scenario.

And for riders who have emergencies, survival is important. Here are five safety reminders when wading through flood while riding a motorbike.

1) Follow the leader.

Drivers of four-wheelers are perceived to be more aggressive when facing floodwaters. With four tires touching the ground and with better traction, cars are more stable when submerged in water. Being heavier than two-wheeled rides, cars are also less vulnerable to strong current.

Serving as a safety car, the vehicle can show the way for the motorcycle against floating debris and under road hazards submerged in the flood. Road diggings may also lie ahead, but their warning signs may have been swept by the flood.

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Hence, it is safer for you to let a car pass and lead the way before you wade through the floodwater. Execute safely by maintaining a safe distance from the slipstream created by the vehicle ahead.

2) Find an imaginary dipstick.

By allowing vehicles move ahead of you, you should be able to determine the depth of the floodwaters and assess the situation. In addition, identify the location of your motorbike’s spark plug. If the water goes beyond the center of the tire hub, it would be safer to not take the risk, because of the possibility that the spark plug will be drowned in water. And that’s the last thing a rider would like to happen.

Look at the legs of a pedestrian crossing the floodwater. This is not about perversion. You can use those limbs as a good depth indicator to help you decide if your motorcycle can cross and survive the flood situation up ahead. Always know the limitations of your motorbike.

3) Avoid whirlpools. They are no fun.

Before crossing a flooded strip, a rider should look at the situation ahead. Sometimes, signs are available, but due to confusion and fatigue triggered by riding through heavy rain, a rider fails to recognize an imminent road hazard.

Among the notorious flood hazards to riders are open manholes, which you can detect when you see water swirling on the surface in a rapid pace. Stay clear of these open manholes, or you and your bike will end up being swallowed by them to be retrieved later on major river systems.

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4) Watch out for floating carcass, because dead animals tell some tale.

Aside from floating debris, dead animals also get swept by flood waters. You might find remains of cats, dogs, or chickens floating when calamity strikes.

We're no forensic experts to determine their cause of death, but it's better to play safe and not assume that they drowned. They may have passed on because of a live wire that touched the water.  Always be on the lookout against loose electric wires up ahead.

5) Check the brakes.

Congratulations! You have crossed the flood with both you and your motorbike safe and well. 

But there is still one more important concern. Since your drum and disc brakes were soaked in floodwater, their stopping power would be initially less effective. Your braking may have a spongy feel.

When leaving a flooded area, do not forget to check your brakes before you resume riding at a normal speed. You do this by gently pressing the lever for the front brake and stepping on the rear brake pegs while slightly applying power on the throttle. Emphasis on gently.

Repeat this until the brake pads and rotor dry up, and the brakes have regained their normal stopping power.

Let’s face reality. The amount of rain brought about by thunderstorms nowadays are almost equivalent to Storm Signal Number 3 or 4 in the past years. The former just happens in a shorter span of time. So before you mount your motorbike, check the weather advisory first.

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Keep in mind that there is only one Aquaman, and he thrives only in the movieworld.

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PHOTO: Aris Ilagan
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