Reaction time and speed are key for survival. A sinking car will not immediately submerge, which means there’s a small window of opportunity to act. Your best chance of survival/escape is within the first minute since the car might float for close to 2 minutes. Don’t try to open the door. Trying to open the door will consume a lot of energy and will not bear fruits because the pressure from outside the car will be greater than the one inside, making it difficult to do so. And even if you could open the door, this would allow more water to come in and make your car sink faster.
Instead, quickly roll down your side window, unbuckle yourself, and climb out. Interestingly, most power windows often remain functional minutes after the car is submerged. If you were too slow to react, the water pressure could pin your doors and windows shut. That means you’ll have to break a window. Don’t try the car’s front windshield as it’s built to resist impacts. Instead, go for the side windows.
Use your foot and kick at the top of the window or remove the headrest from your seat and jam it where the window meets the door. You can also use a glass breaking tool like ResQMe to quickly break the window. It can easily be stored in the glove compartment or on your keychain. If the car is upside down and your seatbelt is locking you in, the tool can even cut you free. After breaking the window, immediately take a deep breath of air and swim out through the rushing water toward safety.
Steps to follow to survive a sinking car
Here are the steps you can take immediately your vehicle plunges into the water.
1. Stay calm
It is important to have a clear head so that you can act quickly. This will also go a long way in helping you not to waste your energy on tasks like breaking the door.
2. Unfasten your seatbelt and roll down the window
As soon as your car makes contact with the water, unfasten your seatbelt and roll down the window quickly. Try to vacate the car through the open window before the car is submerged.
3. Break the window if you cannot roll it down
If you are unable to roll down the window just break it. It is important to have special car-window-breaking tools but if you cannot afford one you can always improvise. Use a heavy object with a pointed tip. A hammer, screwdriver or even a pointed shoe can serve the purpose. You can also use the headrest of your car seats to break the window. Ensure you hit around the edges.
4. If there are children present, get them out first
Unfasten your seatbelt, break/roll down your window, unfasten the child’s seatbelt and help them out through the window. If there are several children, help them from oldest to youngest since the oldest can assist their younger siblings to safety.
5. If you cannot use the window, wait until the car fills up with water
This looks like an impossibility but waiting for the pressure inside and outside the car to equalize means you will be able to open the door although you will still use some energy. Once you open the door, take a deep breath and swim out.
6. Follow the air bubbles to find your way to the surface
Once a car is submerged, the water around it becomes clouded and visibility is greatly reduced. To find your way out, swim in the same direction as the rising air bubbles.