How to Escape a Car Sinking in Deep Water

It can happen in an instant: Your car ends up in the water, and it’s sinking fast. Here’s how to get out.

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Up next in Driving & Car Safety (28 videos)

Stay safe on the road with the important information in this car and driver video series.

You Will Need

  • Self-composure
  • Glass-breaking tool

Steps

  1. Step 1

    Calm down

    Stem panic by reminding yourself that your car will usually float for a minute or two before it begins to sink. Use this time to unfasten your seat belt, open the driver-side window or a sunroof, and unlock the doors.

  2. As long as you keep your keys in the ignition, the electrical system likely will work until the car is submerged enough for the system to short out.

  3. Step 2

    Break the window

    If you were unable to open your side window, break it with your elbow, heels, or -- better still -- anything pointy you have on hand, like a pen or screwdriver. Aim for the center of the window. Don’t bother with the windshield; it's made to be unbreakable.

  4. Hardware stores sell tools specifically designed to break car windows in an emergency.

  5. Step 3

    Undress

    If the car is sinking slowly, take off your shoes. If you’re wearing jeans and you have time, remove those as well. Both weigh you down, making swimming to the surface more difficult.

  6. Step 4

    Get out

    Climb out the window before the car becomes submerged, and swim to the surface.

  7. Memorize the acronym POGO: Pop seat belt, Open the window, and Get Out.

  8. Step 5

    Wait until car fills

    If you were unable to get out through the window, don’t panic! Let the car fill with water, knowing that once it does, the water pressure inside and out will be equalized, allowing you to open the door and escape.

  9. Hang on to the door handle as the car fills with water so you don’t float and become disoriented if the car flips.

  10. Step 6

    Open the door

    When the water reaches your chin, take a deep breath and hold it. Then open the door and swim out headfirst. If you’re not sure which way is up, look for bubbles and swim in the direction in which they’re rising.

  11. Magician Criss Angel escaped from the locked trunk of a car submerged in a lake as one of his stunts.

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