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How to Escape from a Sinking Car. Remain calm. Panic reduces energy, uses up precious air, and causes you to blank out.

QCOSTARICA | We must all be prepared for a number of situations that we might have to face at some point in life. But as usual, we are not always prepared for all. One of those is, what to do if your car is sinking in water.

Although we cannot remember a case of this happening in Costa Rica, a car diving into one the many rivers and lakes, it could happen given the country’s lack of or missing safety barriers on most roads.

Any car accident is frightening, but an accident in which your vehicle is thrown into the water is absolutely terrifying. Most deaths are a result of panic, not having a plan and not understanding what is happening to the car in the water. Following the most recent case in which the police found a couple in a car, trapped inside, submerged in a lake in Miami, we offer a list of recommendations if your car falls into a body of water.

By adopting a brace position to survive the impact, acting decisively when the car ends up in the water, and getting out fast, being trapped in a sinking vehicle is survivable, even if it’s a flooded river.

  1. Brace yourself for impact. As soon as you’re aware that you’re going off the road and into a body of water, adopt a brace position. This is done by placing both hands on the steering wheel in the “nine and three” positions.
  2. Undo your seat belt. Specialists in cold water immersion, says that the seatbelt is the first thing to attend to, yet it often gets forgotten in the panic.
  3. Forget the cell phone call. Your car isn’t going to wait for you to make the call and sadly, people have lost their lives trying this. Get busy getting out.
  4. Open the window as soon as you hit the water. Leave the door alone at this stage and concentrate on the window. A car’s electrical system should work for up to three minutes in water, (not that you have three minutes of course), so try the method of opening it electronically first.
  5. Break the window. If you aren’t able to open the window, or it only opens halfway, you’ll need to break it. You will need to use an object or your foot to break the window. It may feel counter-intuitive to let water into the car, but the sooner it is open, the sooner you will be able to escape directly through the broken window.
  6. Escape through the broken window. Take a deep breath, and swim out through the broken window as soon as you’ve broken it. Water will be gushing into the car at this point, so expect this and use your strength to swim out and up.
  7. Look to children first. Heave them up toward the surface as best you can. If they cannot swim, see if you can give them something that floats to hold onto, with strict instructions not to let go. An adult may need to go with them immediately if there is nothing to hold onto.
  8. Stay calm. Keep your mouth closed to preserve breath and to prevent water from entering. Continue to breathe normally until the water is at chest level, then take a deep breath and hold your nose.
  9.  Escape when the car has equalized. If it has reached the dramatic stage where the car cabin has filled with water and it has equalized, you must move quickly and effectively to ensure your survival. It takes 60 to 120 seconds (1 to 2 minutes) for a car to fill up with water usually.While there is still air in the car, take slow, deep breaths and focus on what you’re doing. Unlock your door, either with the power button (if it is still working) or manually. If the doors are stuck (which they probably will be in most cases, with the pressure being massive), hopefully you’ve been busy breaking the window already, as advised in the previous steps.
  10. Swim to the surface as quickly as possible. Push off the car and swim to the surface. If you don’t know which way to swim, look for light and swim toward it or follow any bubbles you see as they will be going up.
  11. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. The adrenaline in your bloodstream after the escape may make you unable to detect any injuries you may have sustained in the accident. Hail passing motorists who can call for help on their phones and provide you with warmth, comfort, and a lift to nearest hospital.