Escape from a Sinking Car
More people in Britain drown in cars than on boating lakes. Not many people drown in boating lakes, but according to American professor John Hunsucker about 350 people die every year in sinking vehicles.
RoSPA agrees the best survival tip is to get the hell out of it, as fast as you can rather than following the old-school theory that you should wait until the car has filled with enough water to equalize the pressure. The fact is, your options narrow by the second. You must take quick, decisive action to survive.
As soon as you hit the water, release you seat belt and unlock the central locking. Open the door, using all your force, and wind down the windows. Get out, then you can help others.
In a submerged car, the electrics will fail, which is why you need to work the central locking and windows as quickly as possible.
You might run off the road into a river or, with changing weather patterns, be swept off the road in a flash flood. With things happening that quickly, your actions may differ from a situation where there is more time, perhaps if your car rolls down a bank into a lake.
Whatever the situation, if you are in deep water you will have to get out as quickly as you can, but you will need as much energy as possible to swim and, perhaps, to fight the cold. If the car has submerged quickly, fight panic by switching on the interior lights if they work and breathing deeply.
A few other hints might also help. When you release your seat belts, they might not retract, so take care not to get tangled. If you need to escape through a window and it jams, you need to break it. Unless you happen to carry a window hammer, as I do, you will find it hard to break by kicking. A steering wheel lock might work. If your head rest is removable, pull it out and wedge it down into the door seam of the window, and lever it until it pops the glass. Then smash through. Equally, if you have passengers in the back seats, this might help get them out.
The car will sink ‘heavy end’ first where the engine is. In deeper water it may flip onto its roof. In a car that sinks front first, there will be a bubble of air in the back, but you should stay in the front … the front windows are often bigger and easier to get out of for all passengers.
The car won’t sink immediately, even with the windows open. However, you must use every moment to free yourself and your passengers and get out. Push children out first.
It may seem obvious, but don’t try to save anything except lives. Computers, phones, purses, and jewellery can be replaced. You can’t!
If you are unable to open a window, there is the equalization option as a last resort. Keep your head as there should be enough air for the minute or two it will take to prepare to escape. When the car is nearly full of water, take a deep breath and push a door open. You may need to do this with your feet for extra force. If you try to open the doors too soon the water pressure will defeat you.