in: Featured, Outdoor/Survival, Skills, Visual Guides

• Last updated: March 21, 2023

How to Escape a Sinking Car: An Illustrated Guide

Stay calm. On average, you’ll have 30-120 seconds of float time before the car sinks. That’s plenty of time to escape if you act quickly. 2. Don’t open door. It’s possible to escape this way, but difficult to do even in just a foot of water. Car will also sink immediately after, making it impossible for passengers to escape. 3. Remember four words: “Seatbelts. Children. Windows. Out.” First, unbuckle your seatbelt. If buckle is stuck, cut it off. 4. Make sure children and passengers can get out of their seatbelts. Guide and instruct them to exit through their own window if possible, or else pull them to the front of the car. 5. Escape through window. Try rolling it down first. If that doesn’t work, use an auto rescue tool to safely shatter the window. It’s nearly impossible to break using your arms or legs. 6. Swim out through the window and to safety. This can call be done in well under 30 seconds if you stay calm and have mentally rehearsed the scenario before it happens.

Nearly 12% of the bridges in the United States have been deemed “structurally deficient” by the Federal Highway Administration. It’s scary to think that one might collapse while you’re driving over it, plunging your car into the water below. Becoming a victim of bridge collapse is hardly the only way to end up in a submerged vehicle, however. Many drivers simply skid out around a curve, go over a guardrail, and end up in a body of water. According to some studies, over 10,000 water immersion auto accidents happen each year.

Finding yourself in a sinking vehicle can be a terrifying experience and panic can keep you from being able to escape. Memorize these easy-to-follow tips so you can stay calm and get out quickly and safely if this ever happens to you. You don’t have to know every detail, but remember these four words: “Seatbelts. Children. Windows. Out.” 

For more on escaping a sinking car, check out this article.

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