A driver who abandoned a 4x4 after trying to cross a river in pouring rain has left police "already under significant pressure" exasperated.
Emergency crews rushed to help when the Land Rover got stuck in the waters in Wincle, Cheshire, but later found the driver had left before they arrived.
Police said the vehicle had entered Clough Brook while driving on country lanes for pleasure on Monday.
Sgt Rob Simpson said he struggled to see how it could be "essential travel".
Covid-19 lockdown guidance states travel is only allowed if it is essential and it is illegal to leave home without a "reasonable excuse".
The call, at about 21:30 GMT, resulted in all three emergency services "already under significant pressure due to the pandemic" attending the scene near Macclesfield, Sgt Simpson said.
He said the vehicle, river and surrounding area had to be scanned using thermal imaging equipment and physically checked by officers to try and find the driver.
But it was later established the man had abandoned the vehicle and only later returned to recover it.
"This scenario could easily be avoided," he continued.
"It's disappointing and I struggle to see how this would be considered essential travel."
Sgt Simpson, of Cheshire Police, said the driver was spoken to by officers and the vehicle had to be left in the water due to the "serious dangers" presented by a flowing river.
"Further work will be done in the coming days," he added.