Experts say 350 to 400 Americans drown in submerged vehicles each year, accounting for up to 10% of all drowning deaths. That's more than the number of people who drown in boating accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Every driver should be prepared to escape a car in the event it is suddenly submerged due to a flash flood or the vehicle careening off the road into a pond or lake.
Here is some lifesaving advice on the right steps to take from top experts:
- Stay composed — Panic is the number one problem in this frightening situation and it can cost you your life.
- Act quickly — Time is of the essence, but keep in mind that your car will float for a minute of two before it sinks.
- Do not reach for your cellphone — You need that minute or two of time to perform three vital steps known as "POGO."
- Remember "POGO" and do it — Pop the Seatbelt; Open the Window; Get Out. …Then swim to the surface.
- Opening the window — Most car's electrical systems will continue to work until the car is fully submerged or even longer—up to 10-12 minutes. So you may be able to open your windows automatically. If not, experts say use your heel, a key or any sharp object to crack the window and shatter it. The best technique is to aim for the center.
- Do not try to shatter the windshield — Windshields are designed to be unbreakable
- Only exit via the door as a last resort — As the car is sinking, you will not be able to open it. However, in the event you cannot open or shatter the window, wait until the car is fully submerged. At that point, water pressure inside and outside the vehicle is equalized, allowing you to open the door and escape.