Stupid Motorist Law a reminder not to take chances

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX -- When a storm hits the Valley it’s important to remember to avoid those flooded washes. You could face hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in fines for those rescue recovery costs, but you could also lose your vehicle, and maybe even your life.

Arizona’s "Stupid Motorist Law" states that you will be responsible for any costs to rescue you if you ignore warning signs to avoid certain areas.

During hard strong rain storms, like what we saw Monday, signs of “flooding ahead” should be heeded. Sometimes the washes can flow fast and deep enough to pick up a car and carry it downstream.

“We have a lot of people that are new to the Valley that don’t understand the forces of flash floods and that quickness of how fast those washes can become full of water when they’ve been dry the entire year,” said Phoenix Fire Capt. Alex Rangel.

And when roads are actually barricaded off, don't try to pass. In January 2008, a Cave Creek man didn’t pay attention to those warning signs and thought he could make it through. The fast-moving water pushed his truck downstream.

“That’s a famous, ‘I’ve got four-wheel drive’ or ‘I’ve got a big truck’ and get a little over-confident,” Rangel said, “and then next thing you know you’re being washed in a wash and it’s very, very dangerous – very dangerous to the rescuers [and] yourself.”

If the fire department or paramedics are called to rescue the motorist and tow the car out of danger the cost of those services can be billed to the motorist. The Stupid Motorist Law says a driver can be cited for driving across a flooded wash when warning signs are posted.

In the Cave Creek case, warnings signs were posted and the driver ignored them. His truck sat in the wash all day after fire crews had to rescue him.

“It only takes about six inches of water to get your car moving,” Rangel said. “You can also get caught in a flash flood, which is a large wall of water that can wash away your vehicle.”

Bottom line: It’s simply not worth it. Find another way around.