What to do if your car has sunk: how to quickly escape from underwater

Yulia PoteriankoLife
When escaping from a flooded car, there is not a moment to lose

Falling into water in a car is not the most frequent incident. But it still occurs often enough to at least study the algorithm of actions for such an incident. Between 2004 and 2007, for example, there were 384 such situations in the U.S. in which people died.

Safety experts are concerned about the amount of unverified and frankly dangerous information about the rescue from a sinking car, which is distributed on the Internet. Therefore, the publication IFL Science decided to tell about a scientifically sound way to get out.

The first piece of advice is that you should never break the window, wait for the pressure to equalize and open the door. This method is completely wrong and deadly.

How to proceed if you are in a sinking car

First, you need to assess the water you have fallen into. If you find yourself in flood water that will not be able to fill the interior of the car, it is better to stay inside and wait for help. Get out on your own if you know for sure that you can see the bottom well and can get to a safe place.

However, if the car is gradually submerged under water, the situation is much more dangerous and will require you to take certain actions. After all, at some point, the water will completely flood the cabin and cut off the access to oxygen.

Don't be surprised if the airbags deploy. This will definitely happen if the car hits water at speed when falling, as the automatics will register the impact and the safety mechanisms will be triggered. Immediately unbuckle or cut the seat belt and passenger seat belts.

If the car remains afloat, remember that it won't last long. It will soon sink, so don't hesitate and try to get out as soon as possible. The power windows in this situation will probably work for a short time and the manually operated windows can still be lowered, so try to help the passengers get out through them.

Do not attempt to open the door while doing so. Firstly, it is very difficult and time-consuming to do this because of underwater pressure. Secondly, after that, the water will instantly fill the cabin and the car will sink.

How to get out of the car, which is underwater

If the worst happens and you find yourself in a completely flooded car, time is critical. Don't sit and wait for the car to fill up and the pressure to equalize, as you'll probably drown before that happens.

Instead, perform three lifesaving actions as quickly as possible:

  • unbuckle or cut seat belts;
  • open or break windows;
  • first free the children.

Attempt to break the window with something sharp or with head restraints by removing them and striking the window with metal pins. Do not attempt to hit the reinforced windshield: it will take too much time. Break the driver's window or one of the passenger windows. Get out through it and swim to the surface.

If nothing works and you can't break the window, your only option may be to open the door. And this can be quite problematic when the car is completely under water and it is pressing from the outside. So waiting for the pressure to equalize here may generally be your best chance, but time is still playing against you.

When the water starts to flood the interior, try to stay calm. The last bit of air may be found at the rear of the cabin, as most cars sink front to back.

It will take about one to two minutes for the car to completely fill with water, after which you should try to open the door, kicking it open if necessary. This is a last resort that often takes too long, so use this method when nothing else works.

Earlier OBOZREVATEL published step-by-step instructions on what to do if the car flooded during bad weather.

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