AAA says if you see standing water, turn around

Aug. 29, 2008

TAMPA (AAA) - More than 126,000 motorists called AAA Auto Club South in need of emergency road side assistance during Tropical Storm Fay. While the motor club's roadside technicians responded to record breaking call volume and worked overtime to keep the roadways clear of stranded cars, many of the calls could have been avoided if motorists took better precautions. AAA warns motorists to avoid making the same mistakes should Tropical Storm Gustav or other adverse weather come our way.

AAA's call volume increased more than 78 percent in the areas hit hardest by Fay when compared to call volume this time last year. However, when wind gusts increased to more than 45 mph the Club had to suspend emergency roadside service because of local flooding that made it impossible for emergency service vehicles to respond.

The biggest issue is standing water. Motorists should never drive through standing water at any depth and need to be aware of the potential damage it will have on a vehicle.

"If you don't know how deep the water is, then don't drive through it," said Pete Candela, director of Approved Automotive Repair of AAA Auto Club South.  "The best plan is to park your car on the highest ground possible and take shelter."

If a vehicle is driven through standing water, a driver risks flooding the engine, warping brake rotors, loss of power steering, or a short in the electrical components of the car-all of which can cost thousands of dollars to repair. If a vehicle shuts down while in standing water do not try to restart the car; call a tow truck right away because attempting to restart the vehicle can cause more water to enter and damage the engine thus increasing repair costs.

It's critical that motorists know what to expect when they call for emergency roadside service in a tropical storm or hurricane. AAA's emergency response pickup trucks are designed to handle mechanical adjustments, battery and starting service, flat tires, and vehicle lockout service and can safely drive through no more than one foot of water. AAA's Tow Trucks can drive through 18 inches of water in order to extract a vehicle from standing water, but anything deeper than that can risk the safety of the driver and the tow truck. Motorists who are at home or in a safe location will receive service as soon as conditions allow.

"Fay had a devastating impact on some neighborhoods and we couldn't get help to people with flooded cars, because so many roads were closed or impassible," said Ed Schatzman, senior vice president of automotive services for AAA Auto Club South. "Many neighborhoods instituted no wake zones and our emergency response vehicles could not drive into them to help extract cars."

AAA's busiest call volume usually occurs on the first day following a major tropical storm or hurricane when the sun is out and cars are accessible to tow trucks. This is when most motorists call for tow service.

Top Four Preventable Reasons AAA Receives Calls for Emergency Roadside Service during Adverse Weather:

Ü     Running over debris in roadways

Ü     Locking keys in car

Ü     Leaving lights on

Ü     Draining car battery from charging cell phones

AAA Auto Club South is the fourth largest affiliate of AAA, with 80 branch offices serving more than 4.1 million members in Florida, Georgia, West and Middle Tennessee, and Puerto Rico. Since its founding in 1938, AAA Auto Club South has worked to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve travel safety.