23 July 2013

How to escape from a car sinking in water

●Open the window as fast as possible — before you hit the water, if you can, or immediately afterward.

●Stay still, with your seat belt on, until the water in the car goes up to your chin. Then take several slow, deep breaths and hold one.

●Do not try to open the door until the water has stopped flooding into the car. Initially, the water outside will put pressure on the door of up to 600 pounds a square inch, meaning you won’t be able to open it from the inside. The pressure inside and outside the car should equalize about the time you start holding your breath.
The next three steps are described at the Washington Post.

p.s. - won't some cars float for a reasonable length of time?  I think my old VW Beetle was supposed to float, and I remember seeing floating cars in videos of the Japanese tsunami. 


  1. Ah, the old Beetle. Once traveling in Mexico we wanted to get to an island 50 yards or so from where the road ended at the water's edge. Backed up, drove forward and floated to our destination.

  2. Richard Hammond of British Top Gear did an experiment on this topic. He found that his electric windows stopped working immediately upon hitting the water negating that as an escape option. He also found, as the point above notes, that when partially submerged he was unable to open the doors. He also found that the standard advice doesn't tell you that unless you have stopped sinking the pressure difference continues to prevent the doors from opening even if the car is full of water. The pool he used was deep enough that he was unable to hold his breath long enough for the car to sink all the way and the pressure to equalize enough to open the door. In the end the only way he was able to escape was to force the door open immediately upon impact with the water.

    Not sure if this is useful as he had to work incredibly hard to get the door open and anyone weaker than him would probably not be able to do it. In the end though, I think that unless I knew it was incredibly shallow I would start opening the door upon impact.

    Hear's the link to the first part of Hammond's piece: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqEa3OJIG0s

    1. I apologize for my grammar. I need to type less and think more.

  3. Mythbusters have some great video of this. They tested a number of different solutions to the problem, but the bottom line was: staying calm and getting the window or door open ASAP is the best survival odds. If the car flips over, you're probably going to die.

  4. Those of us who live in South Florida are constantly reminded of the dangers of cars going in the water as we have many canals that are part of the water management system. Some of these canals are more than forty feet deep and have over the years been the scene of both escapes and deaths due to drowning.

    I personally carry a punch that can break a car window, just in case. It also has a blade you can use to cut a seat belt. The problem is that if you are knocked into a canal by another car and lose consciousness you lose precious time. I disagree about leaving your seat belt on. If the mechanism has jammed, you need all the time you have to either get the belt released or cut it. If you wait too long, you're in trouble. Also, the water in our canals is murky and you can become disoriented as to which way is up. I've heard some people advise to release some air once you're out of the car and follow the bubbles up.

    To the majority of people, this is not something high on their lists of things to worry about, but as I live one mile from one of the deepest canals and drive by it daily, it is something I've given some thought to.

  5. I keep a Leatherman in the side pocket of my car- can cut seatbelts and the tool I have is large enough to hit the window to break it.

    Over on Reddit someone said a car headrest can be pulled out and the metal prongs used to break the window to escape if one should end up in water.

  6. As a child in San Francisco, I was afraid of crossing long bridges, but I was assured that if the bridge fell down in an Earthquake, we would be okay because Volkswagens float.


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