Tips on what to do if your car goes into deep water.

Flooded carFrom traversing the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel to crossing the Jordan Bridge, driving over, under, and around bodies of water is a daily occurrence for travelers in our area.  In addition to communities near the bay and ocean, our neighborhoods are flanked by natural and man-made lakes, flowing rivers, and tidal marshes, all of which provide wonderful opportunities for outdoor adventures.  Sadly, these same waterways can also pose a danger to drivers and passengers involved in car accidents.

As is usually the case in extreme emergency situations, knowing how to react can make the difference between fatality and survival.  In the event you should find yourself trapped in a vehicle underwater, experts offer the following advice:

  • Brace yourself - place hands on the steering wheel in the nine and three positions to be prepared for airbag deployment and lessen the chance of injury from the airbag.
  • Forget trying to use your cell phone – you’ll waste precious time and it will not aid you getting out of the sinking car.
  • Open the window as soon as you hit the water — your electrical system should work up to three minutes in water. Get out.
  • Windows closed – You cannot open the door until the water has flooded the car. Initially, the water outside will put pressure on the door of up to 600 pounds per 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 need to take several deep breaths and hold the last one. Go.
  • If you can’t open a door and you’re trying to break a window instead, aim for a side window, never the windshield. Windshields are several layers thicker. Keep a center punch or small hammer in your glove box.
  • Don’t take off your seat belt until you have opened a door or window. Grip the steering wheel before you unbuckle. You’ll need something keeping you tethered so that you can pull yourself out of the car.
  • Once you’re out of the vehicle, if you are submerged and it's night time, let your body float you to the surface. 
  • If you have children in your car, Professor Dr. Gordon Geisbrecht’s motto is S-C-W-O, which means Seat belts (off) – Children (unbuckle them)- Window (break it) – Out (Children first holding an object that floats, if available).

Following these steps should take about thirty seconds. Investing thirty minutes to discuss these tips with every member of your family, especially with newly-licensed, less-experienced drivers, could very well save a life.  

Related topics:
Virginia Accidents and Insurance Coverage
10 Tips for Car Safety



Kellam T. Parks
Managing Member of Parks Zeigler, PLLC
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