4 Steps You Should Take to Escape a Sinking or Submerged Car

Some drivers throw car safety out the window and take risks at some of the most dangerous times, like driving through flooded streets. Though certain modifications can help off-road vehicles navigate a few feet of water, there’s nothing that can save a car from a lake, pond, or canal once it is sinking or submerged. 

It’s one of the most horrific events you could ever experience. Unless you drive a sQuba vehicle that can drive underwater, you’ll need to figure out how to save yourself from a sinking or submerged car. How often does it really occur, though, and what you can do about it if you find yourself in that situation? 

When learning about car safety, should you know how to escape a sinking or submerged car?

Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) attempts to rescue Lindsay (Madison McReynolds), trapped inside a sinking car on 'CSI'
Are sinking cars as common as they are on TV, like in this episode of ‘CSI’? | Robert Voets/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

Some people fear bodies of water as they drive past them. It’s not uncommon for some drivers to be petrified that they will suddenly lose control of their car and veer off into a lake, pond, or canal. But how often does this really happen?

According to Murray Guari, this is one of the deadliest types of accidents. However, it accounts for only about 11 percent of all drownings, which is relatively rare. Florida leads the nation in deaths when it comes to vehicle submersions thanks to its abundant bodies of water.

Even though your chances of getting into this situation are relatively low, it’s still important to have a plan for what to do in case it should happen to you one day. Experts say you have only about two minutes before the car fills with water, so what you do counts in those few minutes. 

The 4-step process to escape from a sinking car

If you find yourself in a situation where your car is sinking, remember the following steps.

The first step is to unbuckle your seatbelt. You need to free yourself to get out of the vehicle. In some cases, you might have to cut it. The point is, get out of the seat belt no matter what you have to do, ABC News reports.  

The second step is to roll the window down so that you can get yourself or others out of the vehicle. If children are in the back, it would be best to break the window back there because it’s closest to them. You might have time before the car submerges to roll the window down if you have power windows. If not, have something handy, within your reach, to break the window if you need to.

The third step is to take care of any small children. You would have to get to the back seat, unbuckle them, and get them out of their car seats. Cut the belts if you need to. It’s more important to get them and yourself out as safely as possible.

The fourth and final step is to leave through the open window you rolled down or broke for escape. 

Other safety tips to prepare yourself for a submerged car

It’s recommended that you don’t call for help if you land in water and your vehicle is sinking, Reader’s Digest reports. Get out of the car first, get to a safe area, and then call for help. It will take first responders some time to arrive, so don’t waste precious time that could be spent escaping the vehicle and saving you and others’ lives. 

If the car sinks quickly and the water is pressing against the door, you won’t be able to open it quite yet, nor will the window break. When the air inside the vehicle equalizes with the air outside the car, the door will open. If the door doesn’t open, break the window. Try as hard as you can not to panic because you need your wits about you to get through each step. 

Leave personal items behind. Focus all your time and effort on getting out of the vehicle. Stopping to gather your wallet, phone, or other items will only make you lose time and could hinder you from getting out of the car safely. Also, don’t worry about the car itself. It’ll likely be considered totaled due to the flood, so having good insurance coverage on your vehicle is a good idea. 

Although vehicle submersions are fairly rare, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. Practice by going through the motions in your mind so that you can be ready if you find yourself in that scary situation. 

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