December 3, 2018

“No Wake” Law Now in Effect

Don’t go barreling down flooded streets in heavy rainstorms.  It’s the law.

Long a source of frustration and complaint in Bellaire are those inconsiderate drivers who plow through floodwaters, without concern for the people and property in their wake.  To help address this problem and call attention to it, we recently adopted a new ordinance that went into effect on December 1.  Modeled after similar ordinances in other cities nearby, it provides:

Sec. 30-36. – Traversing flooded street with vehicle.

(a)  It shall be unlawful for any person to traverse a flooded street in an automobile, truck, boat, or other vehicle or vessel at such speed as to create a wake therein that may or is likely to cause personal injury or damage or increased flooding to the property or premises adjoining such flooded street or streets.

(b)  It shall be an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the person was performing a rescue operation or was protecting the public order and safety.

This law is more aspirational in nature, as we recognize that its enforcement may be somewhat difficult, though not impossible.  In most cases a police officer would have to personally witness the offense before writing a ticket.  Of course, without the law there’s even less officers could do about it.

The emphasis of the law is to deter the targeted behavior by reminding drivers to slow down, or better yet, avoid driving through flooded streets altogether.  It will be part of the City’s public messaging and emergency notifications (sign up here) whenever heavy rainfall and potential flooding conditions are anticipated.  Such reminders encourage compliance even if the law may prove difficult for police to enforce.

As ongoing and future drainage projects bring added underground (local) and downstream (regional) capacity, we’ll see a reduction in the frequency and severity of street flooding, and its duration in each instance.  However, it’s important for Bellaire residents to understand that our streets are a component of the drainage system, and are in fact designed to hold excess water as a last line of defense in major rain events.  When that happens, we all have an obligation not to make matters worse.  The “No Wake” law serves as a reminder, and carries a penalty for violators.