Nobody wants to find themselves in a submerged vehicle. Unfortunately, many drivers will find themselves in this terrifying position. It can happen to anyone. According to research from the University of Manitoba, vehicles submersions are responsible for around 400 deaths a year in North America, one of the highest fatality rates of motor-vehicle accidents. Some studies report over 10,000 water immersion auto accidents every year. From collapsing bridges and skids to crashes and Google Maps accidents, there are many ways your vehicle can enter a body of water. Even heavy rains and flooding can submerge a vehicle in a matter of minutes. Continue reading to learn how to escape from a sinking car. 1.   Brace for impact The water can cause a huge impact. Brace for it by firmly gripping the steering wheel at the “9 and 3” position rather than the “10 and 2” position. If the air bags go off (which they probably will), hands placed at the “10 and 2” position will cause your hands to hit your face. If you are wearing a watch, you could get knocked out as a result.

2.   Remain calm, but move quickly

When your car enters a body of water, you have around 30 seconds to 2 minutes before the car sinks and becomes completely submerged. This gives you plenty of time to react and get yourself out, but you will still need to act fast. Minivans and larger vehicles submerge slower than small car, but it’s safe to assume that you have around 60 seconds to get yourself out. As soon as you notice you’re entering a body of water, stay focused and start repeating the steps you will need to take to escape. Don’t panic!

3.   Unbuckle your seat belt

The first thing you should do is unbuckle your seat belt. If the buckle is stuck, you will need to cut it. Since buckles can become stuck, it’s highly recommended that you have a seat belt cutter within reach of the driver’s seat.

4.   Unbuckle passengers’ seat belts

If you have children or other passengers in the car, the second thing you should do is unbuckle their seat belts. Make sure you get your passengers out of their seat belts before doing anything else. If you have passengers in the back seat, instruct them to exit through their window or pull them into the front of the car so they can exit through your window.

5.   Open the window (break it if necessary)

After everyone in the vehicle is unbuckled, try rolling down the window. Most car windows will still work after making impact with water. If you cannot get the window to roll down, however, you will need to break the window. This can be extremely difficult without a car window breaker (safety hammer). This device almost always comes with a seat belt cutter. Make sure you have a seat belt cutter/window breaker within reach of the driver’s seat at all times. If the window won’t roll down and you don’t have a car escape tool, you will need to kick out the side or rear window, but this won’t be easy.

6.   Climb out

Once the window has been rolled down (or broken), push the children out of the window, oldest ones first. Then, climb out of the window yourself.

7.   Open the door (if the window won’t open)

Sometimes, you can’t get the window to open. In this case, if water is entering the vehicle, wait until pressure is equalized on both sides of the door before attempting to open it. This usually means waiting until the water level is the same on both the inside and outside of the car. Take a deep breath, open the door, and swim out headfirst. If you don’t know which direction is up, follow the bubbles, which will always rise to the surface.

8.   Swim for dry land

Once you have successfully escaped from your sinking vehicle, determine whether or not you can swim to dry land. If it makes sense to stay put and call for help, do that instead. When swimming to safety, swim in the direction of the current (if you are in deep water).


Be extra careful when driving in high flood areas and around areas adjacent to bodies of water. If there is a flash flood warning, avoid driving if possible. People can drown in less than 1 foot of water. Just because the car ahead of you was able to drive through the flood waters doesn’t mean that yours will. Follow The National Weather Service’s advice: “Turn around, don’t drown.” If your car has been partially or completely submerged for any reason, do not try to start the car without first having a mechanic conduct a full inspection. The costs to restore a submerged vehicle are extremely high, usually exceeding its value. Most insurance companies will consider a submerged car as “totaled.” Luckily, Valley Car Group has an extensive inventory of used vehicles to get you back on the road again. Just come by and check out our vast selection anytime!