Crossing a river at a ford

The risk of flooding means that fords are not always safe to cross

A ford that was safe to cross yesterday may not be today

A ford that was safe to cross yesterday may not be today

Don’t assume that a ford is always safe to cross just because the road goes into the river on one side and comes out on the other.

According to the website more than 2000 river fords remain in use in the UK, generally where a minor road carrying little traffic crosses a minor river or stream.

Unlike the more expensive alternative of a bridge, a ford, or watersplash, is vulnerable to changes in water level and flow rate and can quickly become impassable, particularly following heavy rain.

12 of the AA's top 20 flooding related breakdown sites between 2009 and 2014 were at fords.

AA advice when fording a river

  • The depth of the water and its flow rate can change very quickly, particularly following heavy rain
  • A ford that was safe to cross yesterday may not be today
  • If you're unsure, it's safer to go the long way round rather than risk your vehicle being swept down river
  • Don't follow sat nav blindly across water - sat nav knows nothing about the state of the river
  • Check the depth gauge and heed any warning signs/lights
  • Most fords don't have gates/barriers that can be closed to prevent you trying to cross when the river's impassable
  • 30cm (a foot) of flowing water is enough to move the average family car
  • 15cm (six inches) of fast flowing water can knock you off your feet
  • Only an egg cupfull of water sucked into the engine is enough to wreck it

Top 20 AA flood rescue hotspots

The ford on Rufford Lane in Newark, Nottinghamshire, with 96 flood-related rescues in five years (2009-2014) is the AA's number one flood-accident hot spot in the UK.

12 of the top 20 sites are at fords with the remaining sites being roads liable to flooding from nearby rivers.

(updated 15 April 2015)