A car accident could trap you inside your vehicle, leading to a terrifying and traumatic experience. The ways that you can get out of your car when trapped will vary, depending on whether you are on dry land or immersed in water.
Knowing what to do in either situation will help you stay calm where you may otherwise panic. The calmer you can be, the easier it can be to escape.
What to Do If You Become Trapped on Dry Land
Sometimes even crashes that involve minor injuries leave victims trapped. Rollover crashes can damage vehicles and trap victims whether the vehicle comes to rest upside down or right-side up.
These instructions presuppose that an accident victim has experienced minor injuries and has the physical ability to move, but vehicle damage prevents escape. In such a situation, claustrophobia and panic can begin to set in. Remaining calm is essential.
Rescue Personnel Have Tools to Help
If you have access to a phone, your first step is dialing 911. If your vehicle has OnStar or hands-free calling capability, obtaining help will be easier.
First responders have the tools and technology necessary to extricate a victim in the safest way possible. Unless there is a fire hazard, you can decline assistance from bystanders and stay put, knowing that help is on the way.
To be as comfortable as possible, it is a good idea to remove your seatbelt. Do this only if you can without causing serious pain.
Create Air Circulation
Unroll the car windows as far as you can. While you may not be able to exit this way, it will promote air circulation and help keep you grounded to the outside world. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths. This will help you stay calm until trained rescue workers come to your aid.
Once you are free, it is critical that you accept medical treatment even if you feel that you are fine. You may have wounds that your body’s natural response to trauma has hidden from you. It is also important to establish documentation of your initial injuries so that any future provider you treat with has a point of reference. Additionally, this will help if you decide to pursue a claim for damages.
What to Do if You Are Trapped in Water
Extricating yourself from a vehicle that is sinking or submerged in water requires a heightened level of quick thinking and physical ability.
There is so little time to escape a waterlogged vehicle that you do not have time to dial 911 until you are safely out of the vehicle and on dry land. You will need to trust that a witness has done so for you. Here are three steps to take to get out of your car when trapped in water:
- Unbuckle your seatbelt and the seatbelts of any young passengers.
- Do not try to open your door. Even if you can get it open against the water pressure, the rush of water into your car will accelerate the sinking process and could trap you under your dashboard.
- Exiting through a car window and swimming to safety is your best exit strategy, so roll down your windows as soon as possible. Every passenger should leave through the window closest to him or her, but you will have to assist young children.
Within seconds, water will reach your passenger windows. When that happens, the water pressure will make your window impossible to roll down. Additionally, water can short-circuit your car’s electrical system and disable the power to your window. This is why you must get the windows down quickly.
If you cannot open the windows due to electrical failure or water pressure, you will need to break them with a tool. Once the vehicle completely submerges, this action will be nearly impossible.
If You Sink Quickly
If you sink quickly and are unable to unroll the windows, you can wait until the car submerges far enough for the pressure inside the vehicle and outside the vehicle to equalize. Once that happens, you can open the door. This scenario requires you to hold your breath in a traumatic situation for a long time and is thus only an if-all-else-fails method of escape.
If you regularly travel over water, you may wish to keep a life preserver and a glass-breaking tool in your vehicle at all times. They will do you no good, however, unless you keep them somewhere you can reach quickly.
If Your Car Accident Was Someone Else’s Fault, Talk to a Car Accident Attorney about Your Remedies
Being in a car accident can be a terrifying experience. The long-term effects can take an emotional toll as well as a physical and financial one.