What To Do If You Were Caught In A Submerged Car?

About 400 people die each year from drowning in submerged vehicles. Have you ever thought about what to do if you were caught in a submerged car?

Spring is around the corner. In some places, springtime flooding is coming, too. Those floods increase the risk of accidents that result in submerged cars. If you were inside in a car that went off the road and into water, would you know how to survive?

We’ll tell you the answer upfront. As soon as the car hits the water:

  1. Unbuckle your seat belt.
  2. Open your window (most cars’ electronics continue to work for several minutes after submersion.)
  3. Get out through the window.

Dealing with children. If there are kids in the car, do step 1 and 2, then unbuckle the kids in order of age (youngest first) and push them out through the open window. If there are multiple kids, don’t take the first kid to the surface, just get each kid out of the vehicle as fast as you can. Get all the kids out, then get yourself out and help them to safety. Remember, you’re trying to survive here. Your kids have a much better chance for survival if they are outside of the sinking car; they will almost certainly drown if they are trapped inside.

Back seat escape. Many vehicles have windows that only open part way in the back seats. If you’re in the back seat, plan to escape through the driver’s side window. This plan assumes that the driver knows about the emergency plan and is able to execute steps 1, 2, and 3 quickly.

Don’t count on being able to open the door. If the car is in even a little bit of water, it will be extremely difficult, maybe impossible, to open the door against the pressure of the water. If you wait till the car is completely submerged and the pressure equalizes, you may drown. Get out through the window as quickly as you can.

Don’t call 911. In most situations, you’re told to call 911 first, before you start rescuing or treating people. You only have about 60 seconds available to you to escape the vehicle. Don’t waste precious time calling for help. If you are in a sinking car, you have to help yourself. In this case, wait to call 911 until you’re out of the vehicle.

Having a safety plan increases your chance of survival in an emergency. Take a few moments to discuss car safety with your family and your crew.