top of page

Emergency Exit: A Guide to Surviving a Sinking Vehicle

waves in the ocean at sunset

At least six people went missing in Baltimore after a container ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge, resulting in its destruction. The bridge collapsed rapidly, plunging nighttime construction workers and vehicles into the Patapsco River. This tragic event has inflicted unimaginable grief onto the affected families and will likely deliver a severe blow to both the city of Baltimore and the economy, affecting international supply chains as well.

Unfortunately, tragedies like this serve as a stark reminder of the unpredictability of life. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 10% of all vehicle-related fatalities in the United States occur when vehicles become partially or fully submerged.

Many of us are ill-prepared for the terrifying scenario of finding ourselves trapped in a sinking vehicle. Fear and panic can quickly overwhelm us, consuming valuable time in critical moments.

However, as Solutionarys, we understand the importance of readiness and training for unforeseen circumstances. While we hope to never encounter these type of situations, we must equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge and tools to respond effectively when faced with adversity.

Should you ever find yourself in a sinking vehicle, it's vital to remain calm and act quickly.

Here's a step-by-step guide on what to do:


Stay Calm

Take a deep breath and strive to maintain composure. Panicking will only exacerbate the situation by impairing your ability to think clearly.

Unbuckle Your Seatbelt

Release your seatbelt immediately to prepare for your escape. This step is crucial to enable swift movement before the vehicle becomes fully submerged. If your seatbelt is obstructed for any reason, ensure you have a seat belt cutter readily accessible. Every second counts, so consider placing them strategically in your car, such as one for each row.

Open the Windows

Quickly roll down the windows. If the car has electric windows, attempt to operate them using the controls. If electric failure prevents window opening, proceed to the next step. Open the window before the water reaches one-third to half of its level.

Escape Through the Windows

If the windows are inoperative, you must break them to escape. Utilize any nearby object, such as a heavy tool or the metal tip of a headrest, to break the window. Focus on passenger windows, as they are easier to break. Target the corners or edges, which are the weakest points.

An emergency window breaker is invaluable for this purpose and should be easily accessible. Identifying whether your windows are made of tempered or laminated automotive glass is crucial, as it determines the most effective tool. Many new model cars use laminated glass; consult your car’s manufacturer for clarification.

Avoid opening the car door unless absolutely necessary, as it becomes increasingly challenging with rising pressure and leads to more water rushing in.

Exit the Vehicle

After breaking a window, swiftly exit the vehicle, leaving belongings behind. Your safety is priority.

Child Safety

Prioritize children's safety by evacuating the oldest first and grabbing the youngest on your way out. The oldest child may need to assist in bringing the youngest to safety.

Swim to Safety

If you are submerged into the water, swim to the surface as quickly as possible. Once on the surface, swim away from the sinking vehicle to avoid suction. Secure a buoyant object, climb onto a larger structure, or hold up something noticeable to grab the attention of bystanders and rescuers.

Signal for Help

Once safely out of the vehicle, signal for assistance by waving your arms and shouting. Alert bystanders who may offer aid.

Seek Medical Attention

Even if uninjured, seek medical assistance promptly after escaping a sinking vehicle. Cold water exposure may cause hypothermia or other injuries.

In conclusion, being prepared for the unexpected can make all the difference in a life-threatening situation like a sinking vehicle. By staying calm, knowing your escape options, and acting swiftly, you can increase your chances of survival. Remember to prioritize safety, especially when children are involved, and always seek medical attention after escaping a sinking vehicle. With the right knowledge and preparation, you can navigate this terrifying scenario with confidence and emerge safely. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and stay Solutionary.


Here are a few of my emergency tool recommendations based on a study by AAA for most effective vehicle escape:

Seat belt cutter:

Window breaker for laminated windows:

Window breaker for tempered windows:


bottom of page