How To Escape A Sinking Car With Children

Escaping A Sinking Car With Children

No one expects to end up in a sinking car, though having a little bit of knowledge and a safety plan in the event of a worst-case scenario is an excellent idea.

If you do find yourself in this extremely rare situation, you’re not going to have time to Google on your phone what to do or call emergency services. 

With a million and one different scenarios and situations in mind, we want to prepare you as best as possible to save yourself and your children if you do, unfortunately, end up in a sinking vehicle.

Avoid Putting Yourself In A Dangerous Situation First

Before we go into preparing yourself for getting out of a sinking vehicle, you should consider a few things to avoid ending up in this life-threatening situation in the first place.

It sounds generic, but the best thing you can do to avoid ending up in water in the first place is to simply drive as carefully as you can near any rivers, canals, lakes etc.

Be as careful as you can when driving near them, especially if conditions and visibility are poor. Stay switched on when driving near water and over bridges, a lapse in concentration, or worse, sitting on a mobile phone is enough to have you in and sinking.

Car Parked Next to Water with Handbrake On

Also, if possible, avoid parking near any bodies of water, especially if it’s on a slope or embankment. If you do have to park near the water, ensure that your vehicle handbrake is in working order and is fully on. You should also leave the car in gear when parked as an extra safety precaution.

How to Escape With Children In A Sinking Car

The first thing you should do is unstrap the children and make sure nothing is obstructing them, or they are not stuck in a child seat.

Gauge The Water Depth and Decide What To Do

You first have to make a bit of a judgement call depending on the situation and the depth of water you find yourself in, and the rate at which the car is sinking.

If it’s shallow water, then you may be able to open the doors or windows as the car floats and get out fairly easily.

Car Filling Up with Water in River

If it’s deeper water and the car is filling up with water fast, then you probably won’t be able to open the doors due to the pressure against it.

There’s lots of different advice on whether you should open the windows straight away as it will let more water in, but the reality is that you probably won’t be able to open electric windows while submerged, so get them open as soon as you can.

What to Do If You Are Submerged or In Deep Water

If the car has filled up completely with water, then the doors could potentially open, however, they might need some amount of force and aren’t worth the time. The first port of call, providing you have the belts removed is to smash the windows so you can get the child and yourself out.

How to Break The Car Windows Underwater or Not

Break the windows by using a reliable escape tool, pulling your headrest off and using that, or even just using your foot to kick the window in. If you have an escape or emergency tool to hand, then great, start by using the mini hammer on the corners of the front side windows as this is the weakest part of the glass.

Breaking Car Window with an Escape Tool

Note that you should NOT attempt to break the front windshield as this will be made with laminated glass and is specifically designed not to smash even when using some force against it.

Getting The Children and Yourself Out

Regardless of age, the child needs to be the priority. Once the window is clear to swim out, get hold of the child and push them out and up to the surface if possible. The window might not be completely free of glass, however, if there’s enough space to get out, then you should attempt to do so rather than knock all the glass out. You simply don’t have time if you’re submerged or sinking at this point.

You want to push the child out the window first, then try and get yourself out. If you’re in a deeper body of water, then you’ll have to hold onto and swim with the child towards the surface.

Helping Escape to Water Surface

If you’re not a strong swimmer yourself or simply can’t swim, look for a floatable object that you can hold onto if possible. It might be seen as over the top, but you could even keep a swimming aid in the car if you think there’s no way you would be able to swim, especially with a child in this situation.

If you have a number of children in the car, then in terms of priority, it should probably be youngest to oldest, simply because the youngest has less chance of getting out of the car themselves.

Key Things to Remember

  • Gauging the water status and depth is important, as being in some shallow floodwater is different from being stuck in a river with a current
  • Children should always be the priority when escaping a sinking car
  • The first thing to do is make sure any belts are undone or cut
  • Try and get windows open as quick as possible, acting quickly is the key here
  • Phone emergency services once you are out and safe, do not use your phone if you are sinking or submerged as you don’t have the time
  • We highly recommend having an escape tool with you at all times to help break windows or cut seatbelts
  • If you have to smash windows yourself, smash the front side windows if possible
  • If you are majorly concerned about your swimming ability, then carrying a swimming aid in your car could give you extra peace of mind
  • Remember that possessions should be forgotten about in these situations

Stay safe while driving, and hopefully, you never need to use any of this information. Remember, you can always dry out a car or replace it, but you can't replace yourself or a child.


Please note that we are NOT giving out professional safety advice in this article, this is for general information purposes only.

Last Updated On: August 26, 2021.

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