How to get out of a sinking car: Tips that can save your life

After the summer, the number of cars being swept away by water becomes more common. The winter months brings torrential rains, floods and the inevitable accidents that occur at the edge of rivers and torrents.

When this happens, it’s not uncommon for a vehicle and its occupants to sink in a few seconds.

It’s a very dangerous situation. That’s why El Pais has given us tips on what you must do should you face these situations.


If you fall into the water from a certain height, it is important to minimize the impact by placing your hands on the sides of the steering wheel, (in the 9.15 position). That way, if the airbag goes off, your arms will not hit your face.


You have to try to remain calm and not succumb to panic, which mentally blocks you, quickly exhausts you and consumes a lot of oxygen. It is best to think calmly about what you must do, remember the next steps and get out of the car as soon as possible; ideally within the first 30 or 60 seconds, as they are crucial.


The vehicle usually takes a few moments before sinking (between 30 seconds and two minutes). You should take advantage of this time to unfasten your seatbelt and make sure that the other passengers do the same. If there are children, it is best to unfasten the adults first so that they can help and move the kids to the front.


If it is still possible, the best course of action is to open the door to get out. However, you should not try this if the car is already half submerged: the water pressure will stop you from being able to open the door.


Open the windows as soon as you can, so that water can enter slowly. If they are electric, the mechanism will still work for about three minutes after the car is in the water. If they no longer work, you will have to break them with a blunt object (it is a good idea to keep a small emergency hammer with a special blade for cutting through belts in the glove compartment). They can also be broken by extending your legs and hitting the center of the glass very hard with both feet. Do not go for the windshield, because it is much harder than the side windows. If this cannot be achieved, then you have to wait for the car to fill with water to balance the pressure; then you can open the doors.


When you open the windows, you will have use your strength, because the water can put up some resistance. Breathe in, help the children out first and swim to the surface, always following the bubbles for orientation. It is also advisable to remove your shoes and any outerwear that could prevent you from swimming freely.

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