Floods are among the most life threatening weather-related hazards to society resulting in nearly one hundred deaths every year in the United States (National Weather Service 2008) and billions of dollars in damages every year in the United States (Pielke et al. 2002). Motorists are especially vulnerable to floods, as over fifty percent of all flood deaths are vehicle-related (Ashley and Ashley 2008). Despite improved warning systems, public awareness campaigns and penalties for drivers who require rescue in flood waters, vehicle-related fatalities in floods remains an ongoing problem and demands attention. A survey of natural hazards literature reveals little about actual driver behavior during floods, merely perceptions of what drivers say they would do when presented with a hazardous flood scenario in a self-reported survey. Therefore, survey responses may not be indicative of actual driver behavior. The purpose of the proposed research is to build upon previous risk perception studies by: 1) observing and evaluating actual driver behavior during floods through the use of the online video sharing website YouTube; 2) determining the risk factors associated with those who risk their lives by driving in floods; and 3) reducing driver vulnerability in floods.
This study proposes using YouTube as a qualitative and quantitative research methodology for observing and evaluating driver behavior during floods. A sample of videos posted on Youtube of drivers recording themselves as they drive through floods (YouTubers) will be compiled and catalogued. Qualitative content analysis of the videos will be performed, and an online questionnaire will be developed and disseminated, asking YouTubers why they were driving in a flood, the purpose of their trip, awareness of flood dangers and warnings, previous flood experience, their demographic profile, and what they say it would take to get them not to drive in floods. Responses will be used to determine the factors influencing the risk-taking behaviors of individuals who drive in floods.