What to Do If Your Car is in the Water
In the state of Florida, particularly around Miami, we are surrounded by bodies of water of one type or another. The chance of a motor vehicle going off the road and into a body of water is higher here than in most other places. It can be both a frightening and disorienting situation, but it is possible to quickly escape in a vehicle before it sinks. That’s why knowing what to do in such an emergency is important.
According to Gerald Dworkin, founder of Life Saving Resources, once a vehicle hits the water, you have between 30 seconds to just a couple of minutes before a vehicle is completely underwater.
Stay Calm & Assess the Situation – When your car is in the water, you are simply not going to have time to dial 911. You need to act quickly!
Seat Belts Off – Seat belts are designed to keep you in a vehicle; now is the time to get them off.
Open the Door or Break the Windows – If you can, open the door and/or try to roll down the windows as soon as possible after you hit the water. If you wait too long, you will not be able to do so because of the pressure of the water on the doors. In this case, you’ll need to get through the window.
If you have manual windows, you can roll them down. If you have automatic windows, chances are they will not function and will need to be broken.
The best way to do this is by using a specially designed tool such as the ResQMe or LifeHammer devices that are available in many hardware stores and online. The LifeHammer should be mounted on the interior sidewall of the driver’s door while the ResQMe tool is designed as a keyring accessory and can be easily accessed.
If you have passengers in the vehicle, make sure that there are also tools in the passenger area that can be easily accessed in case of an emergency. Both also have a seat belt cutter that can get through a seat belt in an instant.
You might worry that this will let water in faster, but it will give you a chance to escape. If you cannot break the glass or open the door, you won’t be able to open the door until the pressure equalizes, which means that water has to completely fill the car. That’s not a good situation.
Free Any Children – If you have children in the car, remove or cut their seat belts. Some car seats are buoyant and can float a child to the surface. Be sure to check with the manufacturer to determine whether a child safety seat is buoyant.
Go! – Once the window is broken and an escape route has been made, all vehicle occupants should hold hands and follow the same route so that everyone can get to safety.
If you don’t act fast, you can end up in a life-threatening situation. Here’s a recent example. A minivan plunged into the Miami river. Despite the presence of eyewitnesses seeing the driver pounding on the window, there was no rescue until emergency divers came to the scene. CPR had to be performed while the driver was rushed to the hospital in extremely critical condition. Unfortunately, he died from his injuries.
There is only a limited amount of time that drivers and passengers can escape their vehicle once it goes into the water. While studies indicate that the electrical power inside of a vehicle can stay on as much as an hour, once the motors that power windows or lock switches are waterlogged they will short out and won’t work.
No one ever plans to get into an auto accident, especially not one where a car goes into the water. If your vehicle has landed in water in Miami, you may be eligible for compensation. Our experienced Miami personal injury attorneys here at Neufeld, Kleinberg, & Pinkiert can help. If you live in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or anywhere in between, call us.