It’s estimated by the National Highway and Transportation Administration that around 400 people die every year in the U.S. from drowning in their vehicles. An occurrence that seems incredibly unlikely to most of us, but happens more often than you would think. If the worst should happen, you have approximately a minute to escape from your sinking vehicle, so make sure you know what to do beforehand so you can be prepared when it counts.
The first rule is probably the trickiest one: don’t let yourself be consumed by panic. If you’re sinking to the bottom of a lake, there’s a good chance that adrenaline has started to take over and you’re not in full control of your mental state, but try not to panic and you have a good chance of making it out alive.
Unbuckle your seat belt as soon as you can. I’ve heard people say that you should leave your seat belt on so you can fight against the current, all the experts say differently. You want to escape the car and a jammed seat belt will not help with that.
Next you need to roll down or break the window. If it’s too late to roll down the window, break it. It’s always good to have an escape tool in your car; somewhere you can easily grab it. Check out the LifeHammer or the ResQMe key chain for some great options for escape tools.
If you have children, push them out first. Start with the oldest and you can help the youngest swim to the surface. There’s a better chance of everyone surviving if you make sure they are out before you.
Call the Police. If your car is sinking, you do not have time to contact emergency help. Call the police when you and everyone are safely on shore to attend to wounds and other injuries that may have occurred.
Try to open the door. Even if you can get the door open against the pressure of the water, the amount of water rushing in will be more detrimental to your escape than just squeezing through the window.
Don’t wait for help. In a lot of emergencies, you’re advised to buckle down and wait for help. This is not one of those emergencies. Even if help is on the way, there’s a good chance they won’t make it in time to save you.
Every accident is different and there is no hard and fast rule for getting out safely, but knowing the basics could save your life. Hopefully you never have to use any of this information, but it’s better to be prepared. Safe driving!