Escape from a sinking car

Should you move quickly to get out or wait for the car to fill with water and the pressure to equalise?

Though rare overall, drowning in motor vehicles accounts for a third of all flood-related deaths

Though rare overall, drowning in motor vehicles accounts for a third of all flood-related deaths

Accidents involving drowning in motor vehicles are very rare.

According to the Water Incident Database (WAID) there were 14* UK water related fatalities involving motor vehicles in 2010 out of a total of 303.  By comparison there were 53 deaths in boating accidents and 30 anglers lost their lives by drowning in the same year.

Though rare overall, drowning in motor vehicles accounts for a third of all flood-related deaths.

Reduce risk

  • Avoid parking close to a river, canal bank or harbour
  • Apply the handbrake fully and as an extra precaution, leave the car in gear. Put automatics in Park
  • Don't leave young children in a parked car unattended
  • When manoeuvring near to a waters edge take extra care. Always make sure you have selected the right gear, particularly if driving an automatic
  • Don't drive into flood water that is moving or more than 4 inches deep - whatever vehicle you have.  4x4s and other larger vehicles are not immune from difficulty.
  • Bear in mind that water levels can change quickly - two feet of standing water will float your car and vehicles can quickly become unstable in moving water

Getting out of a sinking car

Stuck in flood water

If you're driving and become stuck in flood water, it's generally best to stay in the car and telephone for help rather than try to get out - unless the water is shallow and stationary, you can see the ground beneath the water and dry land is near by.

Fallen into deep water

If your vehicle falls into deep water then you should brace yourself for the impact - it's possible that airbags may deploy when the car hits the water.

If you find yourself in a car that is filling up with water:

  • Act quickly - don't wait for the car to fill up with water or waste time trying to call for help
  • The car may float for a short while - try to get out before it starts to sink
  • Free yourself and all your passengers from seatbelts and child seats
  • The door will be difficult to open because of the pressure of water outside
  • Electric windows should still operate for a while - open one or more windows and the sunroof (if fitted) before the water rises to glass level
  • Help your passengers to escape through the open window or sunroof as quickly as possible
  • Take your mobile phone with you if possible (it might still work and allow you to call for help) and also any floating objects that you can take with you to help when in the water.

(11 December 2012)

*excluding suspected suicides

Image: Matt Drew, Environment Agency

 

Need AA Breakdown Cover?

We fix more cars by the roadside than anyone else. Get a quote »

Need AA Breakdown Cover?