How To Escape From A Sinking Car

September 17, 2015, by Ken Jorgustin


While the odds of you being in this situation are statistically low, if you do happen to be in a car that is sinking into the water (car accident off the road into a body of water – or over a bridge into the water), this is how you get out…

Do Not Panic! While this is easier said than done, remaining out of the panic zone will enable you to think more clearly to remember how to get out of the sinking car.

IMMEDIATELY OPEN YOUR WINDOW, or as soon as you can after you hit the water. Your best chance to get out of a sinking car will be through the window because the door will be very difficult to open due to the water pressure against the door, even if the car is somewhat floating.

If the car is floating, get out through the window as fast as you can. If the water is rushing in, don’t panic. You won’t be able to get out through the window while the water is rushing in, however, you may still have air until the car fills up. Just wait for it… as soon as the car fills with water, you will be able to easily swim out.

Note: Due to the water pressure against the door, it will take some time before you can actually open the door – until the pressure equalizes between the inside and outside – after the car fills with water – although requiring lots more effort than normal. Your best opportunity to get out of the car is through the window.

If the power windows are not functioning, you must break the glass. Expending effort while trying to get out could lead to exhaustion and panic. With that said, there is a specific tool which is designed to break the window glass with minimal effort. I ALWAYS have this in my vehicle, as described in the following article, The RESQME Tool Window Breaker.

Note: It is much easier to break a car window if you strike it with something hard, at a corner rather than the center. Use your feet if nothing is available.


The best chance for escape is while the car is still floating, which may only be a few seconds or if you’re lucky up to a minute or two depending on the car. Once it begins sinking, it may descend steeply or even turn over on its roof. The sooner you get out, the better.

In the worst case, if you cannot open or break the window, wait until the car fills with water. As the water fills, take a deep breath, and as soon as the pressure is equalized between inside and outside, you should be able to open the door. If you know that the door on your side has been damaged, move to another door.