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How to escape a sinking car

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A water immersion accident is when a car runs off the road and submerges in water. Oftentimes the passengers survive, but it can end in tragedy. Would you know how to react if your car went off the road and into a body of water and began to sink? TechMoran is here with a guide on how to escape a sinking car so you have the knowledge in your pocket in case of an emergency.

It may sound simple, but escaping a sinking car is trickier than you might imagine. The vehicle usually fills up faster than you’d think and it’s often dark under the surface; if you’re upside down or injured, it can make you even more disoriented. That’s why it’s critical to know how to escape a sinking car before it happens – you may not have much time to react.

Stay calm. Easier said than done, we know – but if you’re going to escape a sinking car, you have to stay calm. Panic is what causes drowning, so you can’t afford it. Try to take deep, even breaths to keep oxygen flowing to your lungs and brain, and take things step by step based on what you know.

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Also, tell your passengers about the plan as quickly as you can – this will help them stay calmer, too.

Try to act quickly. Your best chance to act is within the first 30 seconds to 2 minutes of going into the water. Your car will float for a very short window of time, and that’s the BEST time to act. Unbuckle yourself and your passengers before you do anything else so you can all exit the vehicle as quickly as possible.

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Know how to exit. The water will press on your doors and make it very difficult to open them unless you open them before the car starts to sink. Additionally, once you open the door a huge amount of water will flood in, making your car sink faster. Your best bet for exit is the window. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Automatic windows don’t automatically short-circuit underwater but they will after a period of time. If the water hasn’t reached your windows, roll the window down immediately.
  • If your car is already sinking and water has reached the windows, the pressure may prevent you from rolling it down. In this case, you’ll need to break the window. That’s why we recommend having a car escape tool made especially for this in your car, like a Lifehammer.
  • Remember, your car windows are tempered glass and that combined with the pressure means you won’t be able to kick or punch your windows out. Use your car escape tool to break one side window and swim out – keep in mind that when you break the window water will rush in, but you should still be able to escape.
  • Rear windows are smaller than front windows, so it’s safer to break a front window to ensure everyone can fit through it.
  • If you have children, push them out of the car first and swim out after them.

Don’t wait for pressure to equalize. There’s a myth out there that you should wait for the car to fill up with water and that will make it easier to escape – when the pressure inside and out equalizes, you can more easily open the door. This isn’t necessarily the best option, though. The pressure will equalize, but it won’t happen the second your car fills up with water. It would take time, which means you have to hold your breath until then and waste precious oxygen.

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Swim to safety. Once you and your passengers are out of the car, head for the surface. Don’t try to bring any of your belongings with you; they’ll just slow you down. If you can’t tell which way is up, look for bubbles (the car should be producing a ton of them) and follow them up

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