Worst case scenarios- How to get out of a sinking car

Worst case scenarios- How to get out of a sinking car

Since it won’t stop raining here and there actually are some flood and flash flood warnings in effect, today’s worst case scenario blog is about how to escape from a flooding or submerged car.

Let’s start with some basics.

To begin with do you actually need to be driving at all? Are you out of food? Do you have a sick child or pet? Do you need to pick someone up from school or a hospital?

If not, then you really don’t need to be out driving to begin with.

And if your emergency is that you are out of beer? Stay home, jackass. Consider the late night run of Paul for beer.

Twas a late night run

of Paul for beer,

his throat was dry,

and he did fear,

that he’d have to wash his pizza

down with water.

So Paul went out, despite the rain

and he drove far too quick,

it never even occurred to him

that the roads might be too slick,

but he was damned if he would slow

and so he was set for the slaughter.

The truck ahead

was at full stop

to Paul’s wife,

explained the cop,

and Paul’s car was at full go

when it made it’s mark.

And so Paul was dry

when he finally died,

his thirst unquenched

no beer nor alcohol inside

and so it goes and only shows

that fate can be rather stark.

But let’s say that you actually do have to go out for a legitimate reason or are ignoring me completely and go out for the wrong reasons.

You still can increase your chances of making it back alive if you remember some simple tips.

  • Plan your journey in advance, taking care to avoid areas which are prone to flooding, and factoring in extra time to allow for slower speeds and potential congestion
  • Let relatives and friends know your intended route and expected time of arrival and where possible, travel with others
  • Check that your windscreen wiper blades are fully functional. If both front and back blades are not up to scratch, get them replaced
  • Make sure you fill up. Using your lights and heaters and being caught in traffic use more fuel than driving in normal conditions
  • Carry a mobile phone in case you encounter any difficulties during your journey
  • Keep a Get Home Bag and some basic car repair tools in the car with you.
  • Keep a life hammer or knife with a window punch or a basic window punch in your car.


On the road:

  • Use your low beams so that other drivers can see you more easily
  • Don’t use rear fog lights. They can mask your brake lights and dazzle drivers behind you
  • Don’t freaking speed or tailgate! I mean, seriously. These behaviors are stupid in the best conditions and in the rain they are suicidal.
  • Look out for large or fast-moving vehicles creating spray which reduces visibility
  • If you have a car radio listen for local news bulletins to keep up-to-date with road closures, flooding and forecasts
  • If you break down in torrential rain keep your hood closed while waiting for help to arrive, to avoid the electrical system getting soaked and rendering the car into a useless hunk of metal.
  • Driving too fast through standing water could lead to hydroplning at skids. To regain traction, ease off the accelerator, do not brake and allow your speed to reduce until you gain full control of the steering again. In a stick shift car, you can also down shift and engine brake slowly.

Assuming you are trying for that Darwin Award, and are driving in flooded areas…

  • Do not attempt to drive through water if you are unsure of the depth – the top edge of the curb is a good indicator but if there is a current even this is not always an indication of safety.
  • If you do go through water, drive on the highest section of the road
  • Drive steadily and slowly so as not to create a bow wave in front of the vehicle and allow oncoming traffic to pass first – make sure you have a clear route ahead so you do not have to stop in standing water
  • Driving at speed may be dangerous to other vehicles or pedestrians and could cause loss of control
  • Drive a safe distance from the vehicle in front
  • Never attempt to drive through fast flowing water – you could easily get swept away
  • Test your brakes after leaving flood water
  • If your engine cuts out after driving through deep water, do not attempt to restart as engine damage may occur – instead call for assistance and have the vehicle professionally examined

Now let’s say you ignored all of this and are suddenly in deep, um, water, and over your head.

While any car accident can scare the, um, water, out of you, any accident where you are thrown into water or submerged in water is basically absolutely terrified. The clean underwear you wore for your mother will no longer be clean and that will be the least of your worries.

But that’s the catch-22 here. The majority of water submersion deaths are due to panic and then to ignorance. By knowing what to do, how, and when you can survive even these nightmare accidents.

So here we go –

Some steps on how to live to tell the tale.

Brace yourself for impact. As soon as you’re aware that you’re going off the road and into a body of water, adopt a brace position. This is done by placing both hands on your steering wheel at three and nine o’clock. This will allow you to brace your arms around your soon to inflate airbag. Now, for the hard part. Remain calm. Panic reduces thought, strength, and energy reserves and causes you to use up any available air more quickly. Stay focused on the situation at hand. You can freak out when you are on solid ground, but you have to be calm to get there.

Undo your seat belt. Cut it if you have to.

If there are children in the car, release them one at a time, oldest to youngest, and if they are calm let the oldest help you.

Forget the cell phone. While you are making a call, the car is sinking, and sadly people have drowned this way. Your priority is to get yourself and any passengers out of the car. Call for help on shore after you freak out, or let others make the call for you.

If you have lost track of up, use an anchoring point such as a door handle or seat to orient yourself in an unflooded car. In a flooded vehicle, look at your air bubbles. Air bubbles always go up.

Open a Window as soon as you hit the water. In a car with electric windows you’ll have three minutes. After that you’ll have to break it. I know opening a window seems counter-intuitive but once the car has started to sink, it is not humanly possible to open the door again until the pressure between the inside and the outside of the car has been equalized which means that the car cabin has to be completely filled with water and that’s not really a place you want to be. It works as a last resort and if your lungs are full of air and the water is shallow, but still not a good place to be. If you have to Break the window because you aren’t able to open it, or it only opens halfway, you’ll need to use an object or your foot to break the glass. Since car windows are designed not to be broken you may need the following tips.

If you have no tools or heavy objects to break the window with, use your feet. If you have high heels, these might work when placed at the center of the window. If you are wearing flats or sneakers, you’ll need to aim to kick near the front of the window or along the hinges .

Don’t even try the windshield; it’s made to be unbreakable and even if you did somehow manage to shatter it (unlikely in the time you have), the stickiness of safety glass can make it hard to get through.

If you have a heavy object, aim for the center of the window. A piece of rock, hammer, steering wheel lock, umbrella, screwdriver, laptop, large camera, etc., might all serve and even your car keys might work if you are strong enough.

If you’ve already thought ahead, you might have a window breaking tool handy in the car. There are various tools available. Experts recommend a “center punch” which is a small tool that could be easily stowed in the driver’s side door or on the dashboard, for fast retrieval. This power punch is usually spring-loaded and can also be found in a hammer shape. Failing that, you could also carry your own small hammer.

But stick with the windows as long as you can, because by opening the door, you invite a quick sink in place of the floating time available to get the hell out of your car.

Escape through the broken window. Escape through the broken window. Take a deep breath, and swim out through the broken window as soon as you’ve broken it. Water will be gushing into the car at this point, so expect this and use your strength to swim out and up. Use the window fram to help pull yourself out and through and kick off the frame and car door once out. Remember to:

Look to children first. Heave them up toward the surface as best you can. If theycannot swim, see if you can give them something that floats to hold onto, with strict instructions not to let go. An adult may need to go with them immediately if there is nothing to hold onto.

As you exit the car, do not kick your feet until clear of the car – you could injure other passengers. Use your arms to propel you upward.

If the car is sinking quickly and you haven’t gotten out yet, keep trying to get out of the window. If there is a child in the car, tell him or her to breathe normally until the water is up to their chest.

If all else fails wait for the car to equalize. This takes a lot of nerve as you have to let the car completely fill, hold your breath, and not panic.

Now you must move quickly and effectively to ensure your survival. It takes 60 to 120 seconds (1 to 2 minutes) for a car to fill up with water usually. While there is still air in the car, take slow, deep breaths and focus on what you’re doing. Unlock your door, either with the power button (if it is still working) or manually. If the doors are stuck (which they probably will be in most cases, with the pressure being massive), hopefully you’ve been busy breaking the window already, as advised in the previous steps. Now you must:

Continue to breathe normally until the water is at chest level, then take a deep breath and hold your nose.

Stay calm. Keep your mouth closed to preserve breath and to prevent water from entering. Swim out through the broken window.

If exiting via an open door, place your hand on the door latch. If you are unable to see it, use a physical reference by stretching your hand from your hip and feeling along the door until you locate the latch.

Swim to the surface as quickly as possible. Remember to push off the car and swim upward as quickly as you can. Again if you have lost track of up, look for light and swim toward it and/or follow any bubbles you see as they will always be going up. Try to be aware of your surroundings as you swim and surface; you may have to deal with obstacles and currents and things such as rocks, concrete bridge supports, or even passing boats.

Now call 911 or have someone call for you. You will be in shock and the fight/flight chemicals in your blood stream after the escape may make you unable to detect any injuries you may have sustained in the accident. Flag down other drivers or people who can call for help on their phones and provide you with warmth, comfort, and possibly a lift to nearest hospital. Hypothermia may be a real possibility, depending on the water temperature, level of shock passengers and drivers are experiencing, and external temperature.

FINALLY YOUR MANTRA SHOULD BE::: Seat belt; children; window; OUT

But best to avoid this situation entirely if at all possible. Good luck and drive safe.

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