Emergency responders concerned about stupid motorists

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - In Arizona, you're called a "Stupid Motorist" if you're caught in a flooded wash that requires an emergency response.

The so-called Stupid Motorist Law was drafted to discourage motorists from making this bad decision and hopefully averting costly rescues.

But in the aftermath of a severe monsoon storm Tuesday, motorists didn't seem to get the idea.

Even though a Northwest Fire truck with flashing lights was parked in front of a flooded wash on Hartman Road, motorists continued to drive around the flashing lights and through the moving water.

"People need to heed the warning," says Captain Adam Goldberg of the Northwest Fire District.  "I don't know how you miss a fire truck."

Tuesday night's storm was just the latest case in point.

When it comes to moving water, a lot of folks just assume they'll be fine driving through it.

But as we've seen on so many occasions, a car can be swept away a lot faster than you might think.

"People still thinking the water's not moving that fast, that it's not that deep, that my car can make it," Goldberg says.  "Too many thoughts that are always wrong."

In a recent survey of Pima County drivers, 61 percent admitted to driving through a flooded wash, despite knowing the dangers at hand.

"I follow the rules, but that time I was just in a hurry." says Shiela Sabo.

"Sometimes it looks like it's very safe," says Tucson motorist Rob Roberts.  "But once you've actually gotten into the water you realize just how strong that current is."

So strong that half of the nation's flood fatalities every year involve people trapped in their vehicles.

Not only that, but putting yourself at risk is also endangering the lives of emergency responders.

Just like Tuesday afternoon, says Captain Adam Goldberg, when dozen of motorists simply disregarded the Northwest Fire truck.

"We have marked fire department vehicles with red and blue flashing lights," Goldberg says.  "That means danger, that means hazard, that means emergency."

"Stupid is not the word for it," says concerned Tucson driver Jerry Bouck.  "They really deserve a lot higher fine or maybe even something more serious than that."

Ken Drodz is a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tucson.

"The best advice," Drodz says, "because you really don't know how deep that water is in most cases...you can't ascertain what the depth is...or if the road is in tact underneath that--is to turn around, don't drown."

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