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Your Complete Guide On How To Escape From A Sinking Car

Discover the exact steps you need to take to escape a sinking car

The absolute worst-case scenario would be if you were inside your vehicle and plunged into deep water. While you've seen movies where a hero dives into a sinking car to save the entire family, including their dog, in reality, no one is going to save you. Taking your destiny into your own hands is the only way to stop sinking into the blue.

What Happens to Your Car When it Hits the Water?

As soon as you hit the water, you'll come to a rapid halt. After that, the car will start to tip forward as the engine weighs it down (the engine compartment fills up with water quickly, but air trapped inside the cabin will keep it buoyant).

Once the car starts sinking, it does so increasingly quickly.

How Long Does a Car Take to Sink?

This is what happens to a car when it is submerged in water:

It takes a car 30 to 320 seconds to sink in water—it's fast, and the water doesn't have to be deep to cause problems. Furthermore, a recent study found that door panels jam after 120 seconds.

Is it possible to operate power windows underwater? With a vehicle in water, you have a short window of opportunity before all electrical systems are destroyed.

When you know what to do in a sinking car, you can save your family and other passengers while waiting for 911 to dispatch an ambulance, which increases your chances of survival.

How to Escape a Submerged Car in the Water

The chances of you surviving are much lower if you panic, so follow these simple rules and you'll be fine. There is plenty of time to get out of your car, and you may have as much as two minutes depending on how airtight it is, which will affect how much it floats.

The most important thing is to get out of the car as soon as possible. Do not stay in it while the car fills up, because the deeper you sink, the more water pressure is pushing the doors and windows shut and the further you must swim to escape the sinking car. 

Step 1: Unbuckle everyone's seatbelts (yours first, then your children's).

Step 2: Open the window, or if you are unable to do so, kick or elbow the side windows open. You should focus on the middle of the window. 

You will need to open the door if you can't do that, and that will be extremely difficult. It is easier to open the door when the car has filled up, but it will reduce the chances of surviving to about 10%.

If you have a sunroof, you will have more time. It will take at least a minute for the electric windows to be swamped by water. Going out the window is preferable because the turbulent water will push against the door. 

Also, if you are halfway out the window and the car tips and hits the bottom, the door will close again, possibly trapping you.

Step 3: Move any children ahead of you so that they can get out.

Step 4: Get into the water and swim as fast as you can to the shore. Do not bring anything from the car with you. If you're not an experienced swimmer, removing your shoes can help, but don't waste too much time.

If rear passengers must exit through the front windows, they can remove the front seat headrests. Some cars don't have rear windows that go all the way down or have smaller rear windows than front windows.

You won't have time to make an emergency call while trying to get to safety. Don't touch your cellphone.

Try to avoid using the last of the air in the car to hold your breath—this is a good way to drown unless you are a master diver. The air bubble in the car keeps it afloat. If you use up the air in the bubble, the car will sink faster, and you may drown if you can’t get to the surface in time.

Do not try holding your breath and breathing using the air bubbles in the car —this is a good way to drown unless you are a master diver. The air bubble in the car keeps it afloat. If you use up the air in the bubble, it will drown.

In deep water with strong currents, you may have to wait until the car is well submerged before you can exit. To maintain your orientation, hold on to the door handle since the car can roll, flip, or tilt as it sinks. 

Use the remaining air to breathe deeply. Looking at the bubbles as you exhale will help you determine which way is up.

If you're driving a convertible, you can easily escape the moving car!

Here are three tips to escape a car underwater

1. Provide spring-loaded car escape tools to each passenger

The cost of a spring-loaded rescue tool ranges from $30 to $50. It is definitely worth the money.

In addition, it is easy to use for children over seven years old since the tool does not need to be pressed against the window forcefully.

All passengers, including kids, have a better chance of surviving without complicated injuries when they have a tool readily available.

2. Do not store heavy objects near headrests

Storing heavy objects in the space between the backseat headrests and the rear windshield places you and your passengers in great danger.

For example, if a fast-moving car loses control and swerves nose-first into water, all the things stored in that back space are hurled to the front when there is an impact" sets up the situation as a possibility. What makes this dangerous? All things are hurled to the front when there is an impact. Items that are moving at high speed, such as bottles, electronics, and other items, can be dangerous to both you and your passengers. Keeping heavy items in the trunk can help to prevent you or your passengers from getting hurt in an emergency.

3. Quickly open the sunroof

As you drive in cold weather, you shut your windows to insulate yourself. What is the best way to get out of a car underwater? Sunroof!

While using a rescue tool or rolling down the windows is the best solution, you may find that your windows are faulty and there is no rescue tool to fix them. Does this mean that there is no hope left? No, certainly not.

By opening the sunroof and cutting the seatbelt, you can act quickly. The tilt of the car forces objects toward the roof, making escaping through the sunroof easier for passengers.

How to Escape a Sinking Car With Children

1. Relax and don't panic

Your body language is highly perceptible to children. You must remain calm as the car begins to sink if you want them to cooperate with your rescue efforts.

While you unbuckle your safety belt and roll down the windows, remember to take deep breaths. When children scream in panic, don't yell back at them because that's only going to make matters worse.

2. Go from the oldest to the youngest

Your window of opportunity closes in two minutes, as we saw earlier. If you want to increase your chances of survival, the best course of action is to begin with as many able-bodied passengers as possible.

What is the importance of this? This will allow you to move other passengers out of harm's way or break nearby windows. Getting to the surface and then returning to the wrecked car to rescue other passengers isn't possible.

Most often, the survivor is still traumatized, which makes them unable to make rational decisions. When you don't have a spring-loaded rescue tool, it's harder to break car windows from outside.

When you start with the oldest passengers, directing them is easier compared to the younger ones. When it comes to the younger ones, if they are toddlers and babies, you can carry them by hugging them like a teddy bear, and rescuing them becomes easier.

3. Make sure the booster seat has a quick-release mechanism

You might have to rescue more than one child from a drowning car.

Sometimes, the situation may be even more difficult if you're with a toddler or child that will depend on you to swim them to safety. Cutting the kid’s seatbelt can be tricky due to the large number of straps attached (or if something has broken).

With quick-release technology, you can simply press a button on the booster seat to scoop up your child and swim away.

How to Save a Drowning Person Without a Flotation Device

So far, we've discussed how to safely rescue passengers and get out of a sinking vehicle.

Nevertheless, how will you handle passengers who cannot swim?

Here are steps you can take if one of your passengers starts drowning.

1. Provide reassurance

Our feet are used to walking and stepping on solid ground, which makes deepwater terrifying. Drowning victims feel overwhelmed with fear and sink as a result. It is your job to help them stay afloat. 

Use encouraging words as you swim to them. Tell them that they are doing a great job and you will get them to safety quickly. The calmer your passengers are, the more cooperative they are toward your instructions.

2. Take a chin grab

You will notice that as you swim toward your passenger,  they may want to dive and cling to you for safety. But you can't use your limbs to swim back to safety if they grab you. What's the best way to go about it?

If your passenger is drowning, dive underwater for their sake. Swim toward them and then turn toward their back. Next, place your least dominant hand on their chin and grab their hips.

As an example, a right-handed person would hold their victim's chin up with their left hand. You are in a position that allows you to swim to safety without having the passenger pull your limbs. Either the backstroke or the sidestroke is the best way to get to safety.

3. Speak to them

Generally, the best situation for a rescue is when everyone comes out unscathed and conscious. Encourage your passengers to keep going until they reach dry land. They are able to keep breathing throughout due to this engagement, which prevents their brain from switching off.

How to Escape From the Trunk of a Car

There are latches inside the trunk of your car that allow you to open it from the inside if you look carefully. We may all laugh at the thought of someone accidentally locking themselves in the trunk of a car, but it can quickly become a dangerous and serious situation. That's why we came up with a plan to escape from the trunk of a car.

The first option

You should know that not every trunk has an emergency latch. For those that do, you need to open it from the inside. Find out where the latch is in your own trunk, or if you even have one. The latch glows in the dark, so you can find it easier. 

If you get into the trunk, don't panic. You'll have plenty of room to breathe, so take a deep breath and plan your strategy. You can simply pull on the emergency release latch if the trunk you're in has one, and it will pop open. Now you're free!  

The second option

In the absence of a latch, check the backseat of your car. If a latch is present, pull it. Is it still stuck? 

Push on the seat to see if it moves. If it does, you can exit the car through the doors. Check the seats for a weak spot if there is no latch on the backseat. If there are gaps between them, they may be weak spots. 

Using your hands or bodyweight, kick or push on them to open them. You might need to put in a lot of work and spend a little bit of time, but it will be worthwhile when you make it out safely.  

The third option

In the case that neither of the above solutions works, or if the car is moving, you can break the tail light. If you need to get to the headlights, you'll probably need to pull back the carpet in the trunk, but it should be fairly straightforward. Kick the taillight when you get there. When you break through, you can wave at other drivers on the road with your hand.

It's Intense, We Know

However, it's the honest truth. It is an intense (hypothetical) circumstance, but one that can be overcome if you handle it correctly. If your car is sinking in water, you should always consider escaping through an open window as your best option.

We hope it will never happen, and you can keep this great information to yourself or share it with others. If you know how to escape a car underwater, you can go forth confidently. Make sure the sense of urgency to escape is the one thing you take with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I swim up to the surface if I can't break the windows or hold my breath long enough to break them?

When you can't break the windows, try opening the door. The majority of people have the ability to hold their breath for longer than they think. Running out of breath is actually a multistage process. Taking off from the car or the bottom will propel you to the surface.

2. What if the car has an infant inside?

Here is how to escape a sinking car with a baby:It will be necessary for you to carry the infant. Be sure to unbuckle the infant quickly when you exit the vehicle. Try a teddy bear hold, which is like carrying someone in a hug until you reach the surface. If you make it to the surface, hold on tightly until you are rescued.

3. How would you deal with the car being swept away by a fast-moving flood?

You might be safer staying in the car if the water does not reach your midsection. Nevertheless, your vehicle could be sucked into a deeper area and filled with water if this occurs. Ideally, you would escape the sinking car and find something nearby that is floating.

4. Should you plan your escape with a window breaker if you are in a sinking car?

Until the engine runs out of fuel (which won't take long) you’ll be able to open the windows. 

Cars don't sink immediately, but their descent is inevitable. You should open the windows quickly because the so-called glass breaker escape tool for cars is of no value, and it will be difficult to open the car doors against water pressure.

Once the water has risen to the level of the car's doors, you'll be able to open them, but there will be only an inch or two of air left. 

5. Should you roll down your windows if your vehicle is submerged in water?

You should. It is, however, very important to do it as soon as possible. Otherwise, the electrical system will short out and you will not be able to roll your window down. You can manually roll down the window of an older car and swim out. The next step is to break the window. The metal rod on the headrest can be used to break out the window. Pull off your headrest and use it to break the window.

Did you find this article about how to escape a car underwater useful? If so, please share it with your friends.

Article by Sam Fury

Sam Fury 3 png
Sam Fury 3 png

Sam Fury is the creator and owner of the Survival Fitness Plan.

He has had a passion for martial arts and outdoor pursuits since he was a young boy growing up in Australia.

As a young adult he joined the military and studied outdoor leadership in college. After that, to further his skills, Sam started traveling to learn from the best in the world in various fields related to the Survival Fitness Plan including various martial arts in China, SE Asia and Brazil, Parkour in Singapore, Surf Life Saving in Australia, and others. 

These days, he still enjoys learning new things, traveling and sharing what he has learned via the Survival Fitness Plan. 

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