How To Escape From A Sinking Car


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.


  1. Does anyone know? Will the electric windows come down if submerged on newer cars? We had an incident about 25 years ago where a guy backed down the launch ramp at the marina where I used to keep my boat. Very high tide and a moonless night. We theorized that he was lost and thought he was backing up on asphalt to turn around. Tires lost traction and the car slid down the ramp until it was submerged. When my neighbor noted it he thought what an idiot. Then he saw the hand in the upper corner of the windshield holding a ball point pen. Unfortunately by then it was to late.

  2. The window motors are water resistant to a point,( they could get wet from rain).

    When your car is sinking, roll down the windows, release the seat belt, and get out thru the window.

    The rear window is easier to break than a windshield or a side window.

  3. I bought the Lifehammer. My hubby thought I was silly until all the flooding was going on. You never know. Better to be safe than sorry.

    1. Good idea. I never gave much thought to it as we never drive near large bodies of water. Never thought of flooding though.

  4. It is tough to swing a hammer with enough force to break a window within a confined space being partially submerged. The seatbelt cutter on the Lifehammer works well though.

    We used to carry spring-loaded center punch with us on the ambulance service in order to break window and windshield glass as the start of extrication process to remove injured people from within the confines of an automobile cab. These are available at most any hardware store. we also kept sharp knives on our belts in order to cut through the safety belt. It must be easy to open and I used an old shroud knife issued to smokejumpers because it cut through nylon pretty fast. Cash outlay for these items at the hardware store is well less than $100. Now you know why paramedics carry so much crap on their belts.

    I’ve never had to use this on myself and I hope the readers in this Blog never have to either. For one thing, you need a new car at that point, resale value is in the toilet and it is scary for those that survive (unless they are drunk or high)

  5. The windshield will be almost imposable to break and remove because of the makeup of the glass. It is basically a “laminated” glass with a very tough plastic between two layers of very tough glass. Even with a good knife cutting the plastic once the glass is broken is also difficult/imposable.

    Ever seen a windshield hit with a moderate sized rock at 50MPH? The windshield will break but will not let the rock pass through.

    The rear window or side windows are tempered glass and will shatter when broken, mostly falling into small pieces. If you do not have a tool or anything else to break the windows, use your feet, most of the time when someone tries to shatter a car window with their hand the hand loses. Having a broken hand or wrist will make it a LOT more difficult to escape.

  6. If all else fails, you can use the seat belt buckle to smash the window.

      1. I am not so sure the seat belt buckle would work?

        from the videos I have seen/info seen, it is a matter of
        sharply hitting/poking the window with something hard and sharp. those little gadgets you can get that you hold up against window and press button on back, are little but sharp. (Ken has had a post on this item, can’t recall the name).

    1. You could use the the metal prongs on the headrests. Hit it against a corner of the window.

  7. I have had nightmares about this more than once, I have no idea why. At least now I have some idea of what to do, before I die of heart failure!!!!!

  8. Ran a big John Deere Tractor off a bridge into bayou, 10 feet from bridge to water, tractor was upside down when contact with water with me inside cab,I hit side window with heels of both hands and glass shattered in millions of pieces and out of there I went with a few bruises and lots of small cuts but otherwise fine, like another old farmer told me, God was riding with me

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