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Blog category: Driving

How to Survive a Car Crash in Water

4 min read

Did you know that more than 11,000 car accidents occur each year, with the vehicle winding up in a body of water deep enough to sink? Tragically, this leads to nearly 400 drivers suffering drowning deaths annually.

A car crash in water — it’s a chilling scenario. If you drove off a bridge or road into a deep lake or river, would you know how to escape a car underwater? It’s not something you can figure out in the moment. To increase your odds for survival, you need to get a plan in place beforehand.

The following pointers will help you take the right actions should you ever find yourself in this dire situation — and could save your life.

Tips for How to Escape a Car Underwater

If you experience a car crash in water, you’ll have little time to accomplish a great deal. But you do have a few minutes to work with. Just don’t waste them. Read these tips and think through your escape from a car sinking in water. Your mental rehearsal will be invaluable if you ever need these survival tips.

Tip 1 - Stay Calm

Easy to say but tough to do, staying calm is essential to surviving a car crash in water. Research shows that a car in water will stay afloat for 30-120 seconds before sinking. This time is precious. You must think through your options and take life-saving action within just two minutes. Panicking is a waste of time, energy, and air. Stay calm.

Tip 2 - Skip 911

If you’re in a vehicle that ends up in a body of water, you have very limited time to take the steps necessary to escape and save your life. Emergency services will not reach you in time. Don’t waste time calling 911. You must take action to save yourself.

Tip 3 - Roll Down All the Windows

Roll down your windows immediately. This is your best chance to escape a car sinking in water. Your electrical system is likely to remain functional for about a minute. Use that time to open the windows all the way. Yes, the water will come in faster, causing the car to sink more quickly. But that is your best avenue to escape.

Some advise waiting until the water rushing into the sinking car equalizes the water pressure inside and out. Then trying to open the car door, which won’t open sooner due to the external water pressure. However, this strategy would require sacrificing most of the time you have and waiting to act until you no longer have air to breathe inside the car. So, most experts recommend opening the windows and escaping that way.

Manual windows will be harder to open if the car is sinking in water. If you cannot roll the window down, look for something sharp and heavy to break the side window. Consider getting a seatbelt cutter/window-breaking tool to add to your car emergency kit. This tool is the best way to break a car window underwater. Otherwise, a tire iron or lug wrench may work. Do not attempt to break the windshield. It’s the strongest window in the car. Instead, focus on the side windows in the front of the vehicle.

Tip 4 - Remove Your Seatbelt

Once the windows are open, remove your seatbelt so you can move freely. If the seatbelt buckle jams, you’ll need to cut the harness. The cutter/window breaker tool is the ideal tool for the job.

Tip 5 - Assist Other Passengers

Now is the time to help others. Unfasten their seatbelts and get them to exit through the nearest open window. A car sinking in water may turn on its side. Send passengers to the front window that remains highest above or in the water. Get children out first and bring them to your window to exit the car if necessary. Have them push off the car and swim well free of the vehicle.

Tip 6 - Deep Breath and Go

As soon as you reach this step, fill your lungs, climb through the window and swim to safety. This will be harder if the car sinks in water far enough that water pours in through the window. But you can do it. Stay calm and push off the car and swim to the surface.

Tip 7 - Visualize and Rehearse

It is to be fervently hoped you will never need the preceding tips. However, if you’re ever in this situation, you will have a great deal to do, in the proper order, in a short period of time. Like a fire drill, visualize and go over the necessary steps. Get the whole family involved in rehearsing how to escape a car underwater. Take your seatbelt cutter/window breaker tool to the local junkyard or Pick-a-Part and ask to practice on one of the junk cars.

Practicing these survival tips is essential if you live where lakes, rivers, lagoons, or other waterways are plentiful. However, extreme weather events and road trips can make these tips invaluable to anyone, no matter where they live.

It should go without saying, but if your car is sinking in water, your life and the lives of any passengers are the only priority. Completely disregard your purse, laptop, phone, and other belongings. You can always replace your stuff so leave them behind without a thought.

Preparing to survive a catastrophe is the best step you can take to avoid one. Make sure your auto coverage is up to date too. Contact a helpful Wawanesa agent today to review your car insurance policy to check that you’re fully protected for all the curveballs life can throw at you.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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