Drowning Prevention Research – Preventing Driving Through Floodwater

Phase 1: Understanding Willingness to Drive Through Floodwater

Key findings: 

Adelaide River in flood (NT)

  • Attitudinal, normative, and efficacy beliefs emerged as key influences affecting willingness to drive through floodwater.
  • Examining the cognitive antecedents that lead to willingness to driving through flooded waterway we found that positive attitudes, perceived expectations of others, and perceptions of control are important sources of influence.
  • People recognize the severity of consequences for the behaviour in situations of greater risk.
  • Past behaviour predicts future willingness to drive through flooded waterways.

For more information, please see the following publications:

Hamilton, K., Peden, A.E., Pearson, M., & Hagger, M.S. (2016). Stop there’s water on the road! Identifying key beliefs guiding people’s willingness to drive through flooded waterways. Safety Science, 86, 308-314. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2016.07.004 (download)

Pearson, M., & Hamilton, K. (2014). Investigating driver willingness to drive through flooded roads. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 72, 382-390. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2014.07.018 (download)

Phase 2: Understanding the Lived Experience of Drivers and Avoiders

Those who had driven through at least 60cm of floodwater in the past described the following influences on their decision-making:

Past experience: Having successfully driven through floodwaters in the past.

Individual perceptions: Pressure to arrive at the destination, situation perceived to be different to warnings, avoiding the potential to become stranded, lack of appeal of alternatives (such as alternative routes).

Social and environmental context: Pressure from other drivers to go through, encouragement from others in the car that they could make it, a sense of security that there were others there to rescue them if something went wrong, witnessing other motorists successfully drive through.

Self-efficacy judgments: Believing they had the skills and knowledge to drive through safely, belief in their ability to assess and mitigate the risks posed by floodwaters, belief in the ability of their vehicle (e.g. 4wd, presence of snorkel, diesel powered).

For more information, please see the following publications:

Hamilton, K., Price, S., Keech, J.J., Peden, A.E. & Hagger, M.S. (in press). Drivers’ experiences during floods: investigating the psychological influences underpinning decisions to avoid driving through floodwater. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2017.12.013 (download)

Hamilton, K., Peden, A. E., Keech, J. J. & Hagger, M. S. (2016). Deciding to drive through floodwater: A qualitative analysis through the lived experience. Royal Life Saving Society – Australia & Griffith University. doi: 20.500.11937/55878 (download)

Phase 3: Development and Evaluation of Theory-Based Interventions


Part 1: Royal Life Saving Society – Australia in collaboration with Griffith University and supported by NRMA Insurance, developed this video infographic based on Phase 1 and 2 research to educate the community on the risks, consequences, and social impact of driving through floodwater.

Key Findings:

  • Men had significantly higher intentions and attitudes and significantly lower barrier self-efficacy, risk perception, anticipated regret, perceived susceptibility, and perceived severity with respect to driving through floodwater than women.
  • Messages changed attitude and subjective norms of men and women immediately following intervention.
  • Only changes in beliefs of women were maintained at 1 month follow-up.

For more information, please see the following publication:

Hamilton, K., Peden, A.E., Keech, J.J. & Hagger, M.S. (2018). Changing people’s attitudes and beliefs toward driving through floodwaters: Evaluation of a video infographic. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 53, 50-60. doi: 10.1016/j.trf.2017.12.012 (download)

Part 2: Changing driver behaviour during floods: Testing a novel e-health intervention using implementation imagery. Funded by Menzies Health Institute Queensland and Royal Life Saving Society – Australia (currently in progress)

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