How to get out of a sinking car

How to get out of a sinking car

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Any car accident is horrible, but the worst ones are when a car goes down with people left inside. Such cases usually end in death: in Canada alone, 10% of all drownings are caused by car accidents [1] X Source of Information , and in North America there are as many as 400 such cases per year. [2] X Source of information Nevertheless, most deaths are the result of panic, lack of thoughtful action, and a lack of understanding of what is happening to a sinking car. If you can react in time, have a clear plan, and act quickly while the car is submerged, you have a good chance of surviving even in a full-flowing river.

The image with the title Escape from a Sinking Car Step 1

  • Stay calm. Panicking wastes unnecessary energy, air and you can’t think and act soberly. As soon as you get into such a situation – concentrate on survival and constantly repeat to yourself a plan of action (see the next step). Leave the panic until you can make it to shore alive.

The Escape from a Sinking Car Step 2 image

  • Unbuckle your children, starting with the older ones (they can help you free the others faster). [6] X Source of Information
  • Forget your cell phone. The sinking car will not wait for you to dial and call. Unfortunately, sometimes people die forgetting that. [7] X Source of information It is best to think about phone calls already on shore.
  • There is another point of view about the seat belt. According to this view, if you unbuckle your seatbelt too early, you risk losing your orientation and being pushed away by the flow of water from the nearest window or door. You’ll have a much easier time opening the door if you’re strapped into your seat rather than floating in the water. [8] X Source of Information This will also help you stay oriented to what’s going on if the car happens to be upside down. On the other hand, being strapped in loses valuable time when you need to get out of a sinking car as quickly as possible. The video below clearly shows how important it is to act quickly from the start, and that you need to get to the back seats as quickly as possible because the heavy engine will pull the front end to the bottom. [9] X Source of information
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Escape from a Sinking Car Step 3 image

  • There are several reasons why you should forget about the doors. First, once the car is in the water, you only have a few seconds to open them. Once the car has started to sink, you simply don’t have the strength to move the door out of the way until the external and internal pressures equalize; this means that the interior of the car must be filled with water, which is hardly what you want [12] X Source of Information [13] X Source of Information Also, by opening the door, you will seriously reduce the time your car will be able to stay afloat. According to studies involving 30 different cars, they are all able to stay afloat for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. [14] X Source of Information Instead of using that time to save yourself, opening the door will simply flood the entire interior in 5-10 seconds. [15] X Source of Information
  • There are several theories that justify being in the car until it sinks to the bottom and fills with water, and only after that, opening the door and resurfacing. The “mythbusters” have called this method “maximum energy conservation,” and at first glance it looks very viable. Its problem is (the program tested it in a safe pool environment and with a team of trained lifeguards) that you can’t know how deep your car will sink in that time. According to Professor Giesbreckt’s research, this method works only 30% of the time, while his “Belt, Kids, Window, Away” worked in over 50%. [16] X Source of Information
  • Usually the engine part of the car plunges faster. Because of this feature, the lighter part of the car will be higher above the surface of the water. You can take advantage of this and open doors that have not yet been touched by water.

Escape from a Sinking Car Step 4 image

  • If you don’t have the right object or tool, use your feet. If you are wearing shoes with high heels – try hitting the center of the window. Otherwise, Professor Giesbrecht advises to aim at the top or the edge of the window (you can watch it on the video). [18] X Source of information Keep in mind that windows are very hard to knock out, and such weaknesses in their construction can help you a lot. Don’t even try to break the windshield: it is made of unbreakable (safety) glass and even if you manage to break it (unlikely in the time you have), you will still manage to get out that way. [19] X Source of information Side and rear windows are much better for escape.
  • If you have a heavy object, aim for the center of the window. Any rock, hammer, umbrella, screwdriver, laptop, camera or even a bunch of keys will do, if you apply enough force.
  • You can make sure to have such a tool in your car beforehand. Professor Giesbreckt recommends using a core drill [20] X Source , which is small enough to be stored in the door compartment or on the dashboard for this purpose. Alternatively, you can purchase a small hammer.
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Escape from a Sinking Car Step 5 image

  • Take care of the children first. As soon as possible bring them to the surface, and if they do not know how to swim, find something buoyant that can support them, and tell them not to let go of this thing in any case. If you don’t have anything like that, swim to shore with them right away.
  • When leaving the car, avoid sudden movements with your feet – you might hit some of the remaining passengers. Instead, paddle with your hands.
  • If the car continues to go under water – do not leave attempts to get out through the window. Tell the children in the passenger compartment to breathe calmly until the water reaches chest level.

Escape from a Sinking Car Step 5 image

  • Continue to breathe calmly until the water reaches chest level. After that, take a deep breath and pinch your nose.
  • Remain calm. Keep your mouth closed to avoid air loss and water ingress. Now swim out through the broken window.
  • If you are leaving the car through the door – reach for the lock on the door. If you can’t see it underwater, try to feel for it by extending your arm and running it across the surface of the door.

Escape from a Sinking Car Step 7 image

Swim to the surface as quickly as possible. Push off the car and swim to the surface. If you don’t know which way to swim, use the light or the direction of the air bubbles. Keep in mind, that there might be some danger on the surface: strong currents, rocks, bridge supports or even boats. If your car broke through the ice when you fell, try to swim to that very spot.

3 Real Ways to Get Out of a Drowning Car and Escape from the Water Trap

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How do you escape from a sinking car while overcoming panic?

Statistics show that 10 to 15 percent of all accidents worldwide are caused by drowning vehicles. The main thing to remember is that it is possible to get out of the car that happened to be underwater and the chances of survival increase only if the driver takes the right decisions at the right time.

Is it possible to leave the car under water

How great are the chances of leaving a sinking car / Photo:

A shallow pond is the least dangerous to drown, a full-flowing river or a frozen lake, the depth of which is difficult to predict. Simple calculations show that when opening the door in a car submerged under water up to the level of the hood, the driver will have to make a ton of force, and it only increases with immersion!

It’s hard to imagine a person capable of such loads, unless you are a weightlifting champion. Let’s look at all the ways to get out of a car under water.

Open the front doors.

Trying to open the front doors underwater / Photo:

Luckily, physics works on the human side here, and once water fills a significant portion of the interior, it will take much less effort to open the doors, so one surefire way to get out of a flooded car is to wait until it turns into an aquarium.

The main disadvantage of this method is that the driver is unlikely to have time to swim to the surface, let alone help the passengers, particularly children, especially if the depth of the reservoir exceeds the usual 2-3 meters.

Another danger is the sludge, in which the car, in the most unfavorable outcome, may deepen up to 1.5 meters.

2. Getting out of the car through the open windows

Getting out of the car through the open passenger windows before it's too late / Photo:

You can get out of the car through the open passenger windows before it is too late / Photo:

The most practical and easy way to leave the car is to open a window and get out of the car before the water level rises above the roof. The car’s electrics will continue to work even under water for three to five minutes, so there should be no problem with raising the windows.

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It is best to leave the cabin through the rear windows of passenger doors, as, firstly, there are children on the back seats, and it is easier to push them out through the window openings of the rear doors. Secondly, the back of the car will stay afloat much longer, which will save you a whole minute of time until the water rushes into the cabin, slowing your movements to a minimum.

3. Break the windows

Breaking the passenger windows of a sinking car / Photo:

This is the only way to get out of the car if it is already under water. In fact, not every driver will be able to react to the changed situation right away. Panic, sudden impacts, airbag deployment, shock – all of these factors will steal precious 30-60 seconds, during which time the car will have time to go underwater in its entirety.

Why not just open the window under water? Because the laws of physics will not allow you to do so, as there will be pressure from 500 to 1000 kilograms, depending on depth, and no window lowering mechanism will be able to overcome such an effort.

The only way is to break the glass. But take your time, take care of your passengers first. Free yourself and the older family members from the seat belts – they will be your right hand in saving the children.

In order to break the side window of the car, you will need to apply all your strength and dexterity, and that the same physics does not interfere with your plans, strike a hard object in the far corner of the window pane. Such an object can be a hammer, a sharp heeled stiletto, a fire extinguisher and your own elbow. When the window is broken, push out of the car first the older passengers, with their help get the children, then get out on their own. Only this order of actions allows everyone to get out in a short period of time.

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Useful Tips

What else you can do to get out of a sinking car / Photo:

There is nothing worse than knowing that in a second your car will submerge under water. However, there is no place for panic and fear in this case. Place your hands on the steering wheel at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. This will keep you conscious after the car hits the water and the airbags deploy, which is important for a self-rescue. Any other position of the hands and torso will cause serious injury to the driver up to and including coma.

Vehicle in water. Panic intensifies and this is normal. Next, act according to the scheme:

The driver’s actions should be swift and coordinated, and should begin as soon as the car touches water.

Many drivers try to hide this fact after the car has been in water, when selling it. But a “drowned person” can be distinguished by several signs.

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