Surviving Water Collisions and Car Submersion

  1. GPS1504
    It has been an interesting year as far as precipitation, or the lack thereof, is concerned. While one portion of the United States is experiencing drought conditions, another portion is having an epic year as far as rainfall and flooding go. Depending on where you live, you may have gotten to experience the deluge firsthand as lakes, rivers, and creeks overflowed their banks, going on to consume fields, roads, and even homes. Dangerous weather such as this has a way of interrupting life as we know it, causing everything from minor inconveniences to major damage up to and including displacement and loss of life.

    Flooding, though problematic, is something with which many of us are faced on a regular basis. Although some floods will be more severe than others, areas that are prone to flooding will consistently do so when provided with the right weather conditions. In cases such as this, the best we can do is plan to survive the conditions present by taking precautions to protect ourselves through whatever means necessary, such as while in the car or on the road.

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    Photo: GSanders

    One of the most troublesome scenarios presented by a flood is water over roadways. The reason this is so worrisome is because people frequently feel it is safe to traverse water on the road and are quickly proven wrong as they lose control of their vehicle which then fills with water and is swept away or begins sinking. Additionally, roadside lakes or ponds can overtake roads and if a blind curve is present, may cause you to find yourself entering the water before you even realize the threat is present. In a case such as this, depending on your speed, making contact with water could result in a violent collision rapidly made worse as water fills the vehicle.

    Plunging into water can feel much like hitting a brick wall depending on speed, so it is vital that you position yourself to survive the impact and remain conscious. When driving, always sit up straight. Seats that are reclined too far will greatly increase your risk of injury as it is keeping your body in a natural sitting position that affords it the most protection in a crash. Be sure your headrest is not too high or low, sitting instead within four inches of the back of your head at approximately ear level. The reason for this is to position your head in a manner so that your neck is less likely to break in a collision. Maintain a distance of at least six inches from the steering wheel at all times in order to protect from airbag or steering wheel contact injuries. Wrists should be kept straight to avoid injuries that might render your hands injured and useless as you attempt to escape your car.

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    Photo: Ask Dr. Lee


    During your travels, there are a couple of tools that may prove useful for a water collision or even general automotive safety. Seatbelts can be an ally in some crashes and enemies in others, so it is good to always have some sort of cutting/glass breaking tool within easy reach to free yourself and break windows if need be as it may not be possible to roll windows down after a collision. Opening the door is a more time consuming action in the event of a water accident than escaping through a window, so be prepared to break yours if need be. Since the action of sliding through a window may be a bit unnatural to anyone other than the Dukes of Hazard, practice doing so ahead of time. This will help you get used to making such movements without having to think about it as well as increasing your speed while doing so.

    Though it is easier said than done, it is important to minimize panic if you find your vehicle submerged in water. This is a scary situation, of course, but it calls for quick thinking and action. Giving in to panic will delay your responses, unnecessarily wasting energy and adrenaline that could be channeled towards survival. Do your best to remain calm and get out as quickly as possible. Focus on your survival plan no matter how bad things seem as you collect yourself and any passengers present to make your escape. Remember that in a sinking vehicle, the only person who can save you is yourself. Though the news may sometimes show heroic rescues from submerged cars, those stories are the exception and not the rule. Rarely will there be time for emergency responders to locate you and coordinate a rescue, especially in a world post TEOTWAWKI.

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    Photo: GSanders

    When flood waters are rising, as well as when driving in general, it is important to always remain alert to your surroundings. Never attempt to drive through water over roadways as this can be deceptively deep and the road itself could be washed away. Pay attention to road signs as those may be present to indicate areas in which rising waters are possible. It is also important to adhere to posted speed limits as they exists for a reason, such as to keep you from leaving the roadway and winding up in a lake or river regardless of whether or not flood conditions are present as ultimately the best tool in your survival arsenal will be the one that prevents you from getting into a water related accident in the first place.

    Have you ever had to escape from a sinking or submerged vehicle? Do you have any tips to share with others? Let us know in the comments.

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