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Crossing a ford

Crossing a river at a ford

They're not always safe to cross – here's how to play it safe

With more than 2,000 fords in the UK, chances are you'll come across one at some point. It may seem like a simple short-cut – after all there’s a road running through it – but that doesn't mean the river is always safe to cross at a ford or watersplash.

Depth and flow rate can change particularly quickly after rain.

Floods bow wave 2

Twelve of our top 20 flood-related breakdown sites are at fords, and our number one flood accident hotspot is the ford on Rufford Lane in Newark, Nottinghamshire – with 96 flood-related rescues in the five years from 2009.

Weigh up the risks

Most fords don't have gates or barriers that can be closed to stop you trying to cross when the river's impassable, so:

  • Don’t assume a ford that was safe to cross yesterday will be safe to cross today.
  • Go the long way round if you’re not sure how deep the water is.
  • Don't follow your sat nav blindly across water.
  • Check the depth gauge – avoid water more than 10cm (4 inches) deep – and pay attention to warning signs/lights.
  • Remember that a foot of flowing water is enough to move the average family car – six inches can knock you off your feet.
  • Drive slowly and steadily –  don’t make a bow wave.
  • It only takes an egg cupful of water sucked into your engine to wreck it.
  • Test your brakes as soon as you can afterwards.
18 January 2017

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