Much like vehicle fires, rolling over into shallow water is something that appears of minimal importance when the incident results in minor or no injury. Yet too often it results in a drowning death.

An intersection collision reported by Dufferin OPP today, May 12, 2022, highlights the role that luck can play in either taking a life or saving it. The OPP provided two photos on its Twitter account showing the results of a collision that occurred on County Road 10 at its intersection with Mon Amaranth Townline, north-east of Toronto, Ontario. One photo, shown below, appears to show a Jeep that landed upside down in a small creek. The OPP noted: “Thankfully an off-duty OPP officer was first on scene and freed the driver and passenger who were trapped in the water”.

In the second photo, below, we see that the other vehicle narrowly missed entering the water and also stayed upright. This is how luck can make such a difference when a danger lurks.

Very little importance is given to small streams or ponds near roadways, particularly if they appear to be shallow. The logic continues to be that “if I drive into it, it can’t hurt me when it is only one foot deep”. How little we understand that in many loss-of-control events a vehicle does not stay on its wheels but rolls over. When a vehicle stops upside down the body part of an occupant that is closest to the ground is the head. And if the occupant cannot escape that position it can be extremely dangerous. Even a water depth of one foot can be extremely dangerous if you are entrapped in your seated position and your head is in that water. You might fight by lifting your head, over and over again, but eventually you will tire out. And if no help arrives you will slowly drown.

That is why proper roadside barriers are crucial in areas where there is water near a roadway. Such barriers need to be of proper strength and design, including a proper length so that a wayward vehicle cannot by-pass the barrier and enter the water. Unfortunately when near-drownings occur no mention is made of the status of the barriers that should have prevented a vehicle entering an area of water.