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Dangers of travelling through water on roads (2010)

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The Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance cautions motorists of the dangers of driving through water on the roads as we are in the midst of our summer rainfall season which is frequently accompanied by extremely heavy and sudden downpours of rain that may result in flooding of roads. Driving through pools of standing water which may span across the road could lead to the potential exclusion of damage to an engine, if water is ingested into the engine.

Motorists coming across large pools of water often assume that it is safe to proceed through the water and that this does not pose any risk of damage to their vehicles, particularly if they see other vehicles entering into the water

Certain policies of insurance, particularly those classified as unsupported motor vehicle insurance policies, contain an exclusion exempting the insurer from liability for damage to the engine or wheels "except as the result of an accident causing other damage". Consequently, if your engine is damaged through water getting into the engine without other damage to the vehicle, your insurer may decline liability for any claim for damage to the engine itself. "This could leave you facing a very hefty bill", says Brian Martin, The Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance. "Your insurer may also seek to decline liability in these circumstances on the grounds that you failed to exercise due care and precaution to prevent losses".

Driving through pools of water of uncertain depth is always a potentially dangerous thing. Certain vehicles such a bakkies and SUV's may be designed to cope with this type of situation, but many modern cars have their air intake systems situated low down in the engine bay with the risk that water may be sucked through the induction system into the engine when the vehicle is driven through water.

Motorists are therefore urged to exercise extreme caution when traversing water on a roadway. If possible avoid doing so and check whether your insurance policy will indemnify you against loss or damage to the engine of your vehicle in such an eventuality

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