Steps on How to Escape from a Sinking Car

Death due to vehicle submersion in water is more common than you may think. When a vehicle is submerged, you have just little time to escape, don’t be fooled by what you watch in the movies.

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Research published in Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine by Gerren K. McDonald and Gordon Giesbrecht states that vehicle submersion has one of the highest mortality rates of any type of single-vehicle accident, accounting for 5 – 11% of all drowning.

Vehicle submersion is not a rare occurrence. It’s essential for you to understand the steps to take if you find yourself in this dire situation. Use this video as a visual guide, and follow these steps in order to ensure that you will be able to get safely out of your vehicle.

How Do I Get Out?

Upon impact of your vehicle with the water, you will have approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute in order to get out of the car before it is submerged. It is important that you remain as calm as possible in the small amount of time that you have.

Undo the seat belt

A seat belt can be helpful in the case of a car collision, but it can be horrible when trying to escape from a submerged car. Get that seat belt off and out of the way as quickly as possible and encourage others in the car to do the same.

Open the window

Manual windows are ideal when in this situation because you have a longer time period to roll the windows down.  However, most car windows are now controlled electronically, which means that a few seconds after you hit the water the circuits will likely short, making it impossible to open the window. You may still have a few seconds until the water reaches the bottom of the side windows to make your escape. After this time, the pressure from the water will make it impossible to open the windows.

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Exit the vehicle and swim to safety

Always get out of the vehicle through the nearest window. Do not try to open the vehicle door because the pressure from the water will make it difficult to do so, and it will increase the amount of water entering the vehicle, causing it to actually sink faster. Swim away from your car, and towards safety.

Call 911

Do not call 911 until after you have successfully escaped from the car because it would be unwise to attempt calling 911 while still inside the car. You will only be wasting precious time which may be at the expense of your life. Support will not be able to reach you in the 1 minute time window that you have before your car submerges.

Get the children out first

It is wise to always allow children exit before the adults. Bring the children to the front seat in order to exit through the window. Get the eldest children out first and carry toddlers and young children who can’t swim with you as you make your escape.

What If I Can’t Open the Window?

In situations where you have electronically controlled windows, and you are finding it difficult to open them before the car dies, you will need a tool to break the window. These tools are cheap and don’t require strength to use. Keeping one in your car, and within reach is a necessary safety requirement.

Expert, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht of the University of Manitoba, trains individuals in underwater vehicle escape recommends the brand Res-Q-Me as an inexpensive and practical tool to assist in breaking windows. This tool is a hammer with a stainless steel tip used to break open windows. It also has a knuckle cover to help protect you from the broken glass.

What Do I Do If the Car Is Submerged?

If you can’t open the window fast enough, and you can’t break it there is still a small chance of escape. Once the car is fully submerged the water pressure will equalize, making it possible to open the door. In order to do this, you must be able to hold your breath under high-stress situations. Most people will not be able to hold their breath this long, which is why the chances are slight, but not impossible.

When the car is completely submerged, open the door closest to you, and allow yourself and all of the passengers in the car to exit through this door. You may need to use your feet for extra strength. The key here is waiting until the vehicle is totally submerged. If you open to door too soon the water pressure will not allow the door to open.

How to Avoid It In the First Place

Educate Yourself

It is best to know what to do in a vehicle submersion incident. Educate yourself and your family on the steps to take in order to safely exit the car. If you find yourself in this situation it will be very stressful, and having someone with a calm head and a plan will increase your chances of survival.

Be Prepared

Get a window breaking tool that can be kept in your vehicle within reach. You can practice using the tool on a small piece of tempered glass, but be sure to wear gloves while doing so to protect your hand from broken glass.

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