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Car In the Water – What Do You Do?

BridgesIt’s not a frequent occurrence, but sometimes cars end up in the water. Failures can happen as with an Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minnesota two years ago. Or their supports get compromised by swift currents as in the example from the New York State Thruway. When hurricane Ivan hit in 2004, sections of Interstate 10 in Florida ended up breaking into the water.

Though this is clearly a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, people are driving on these roads when this happens. Here are the steps you need to consider if you should ever find yourself in a car sinking in water.

  1. Remain calm and composed. Okay, as composed as possible anyway. Keep in mind that the car will likely float for a bit, giving you time to take the next steps.
  2. Unlock seat belts and lower windows if you can. The electrical system should work long enough to get the windows down. If you cannot lower windows, try and break the side windows with your heal or a heavy object. Aim for the center of the window, and don’t try this on the windshield. It is the hardest window to break. If you have been successful ease out of the window openings.
  3. Trying to open the doors before the car is actually full of water is a waste of your energy. The force of the water on the outside of the door is far greater than what you can overcome. Hold onto the door handle as the car fills up, get a good breathe when the water level reaches your neck, and then then push the car door open.
  4. Remove unnecessary clothing, especially jeans or shoes that might weigh you down.
  5. If you are disoriented, try and find the direction of air bubbles. They will lead you to the surface.

Hopefully you will never need to know these tips, but a friend taught me them once on a trip to New Orleans as we drove over the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway. The only thing that has changed much since then is that fewer cars have cranking windows.

See a good video on this topic from Howcast.


Anna at abdpbt is responsible for the effort to Fight Listless Mondays. Find other list links on her blog. Her lists are more clever. Lots.

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