In the last month, two cars fell from the Howard Frankland Bridge into Tampa Bay. While one driver could break free from their vehicle, the second driver was stuck and drowned.
Sadly, these tragedies are not uncommon in Florida, where more than 475 drivers were in a car crash involving a car running into a body of water. Of those crashes, 11 drivers passed away. In 2017, about 1,800 deaths resulted from 21,000 car crashes where a vehicle was either on fire or submerged. In both situations, the passengers inside have between 30 and 120 seconds to escape before death.
Gladly, drivers can use a series of tools and tricks when stuck inside their vehicle following a terrible car accident. It is also necessary to stay comfortable while driving to avoid accidents and so one should invest in car seat cushion that helps to drive safely.
Tools to Save Your Life
According to AAA Florida spokesman Mark Jenkins, having a window breaker easily accessible can help those stuck inside their vehicles escape. There are two standard designs for window breakers: a small, specialized hammer or a spring-loaded tube about the size of a chapstick.
A study was conducted testing six different brands of escape tools: three were spring-loaded, and the other three were hammer style. All three spring-loaded devices broke the tempered window, the type of glass found in most cars. While one hammer was able to shatter the glass, the other two brands failed in cracking the window after five strikes.
While the spring-loaded tool was more effective in breaking tempered glass, none of the six tools could break the laminated glass. This more robust form of glass prevents people from being ejected from the car during an accident. However, that also makes it easier for those stuck in their vehicles to break out.
Besides a window breaker, investing in a seatbelt cutter can also be beneficial in the situation that the buckle gets stuck or smashed. Seatbelt cutters are especially handy for those driving young children, as children may struggle to unclasp their seatbelt quickly. Having a seatbelt cutter on hand can ensure you and passengers do not become trapped in your vehicle.
When choosing a tool for your car, avoid extra features such as a flashlight or charger. These extras can hinder the tool’s performance because the added features make the device bigger and more difficult to wield.
Keeping the tool within close range of the driver’s seat is also essential. A window breaker can be secured underneath the base of the steering wheel or stored in the vehicle’s center console or glove box. Placing the tool where it is easy to grab promptly ensures that you and your passengers have an escape route.
Other Ways to Protect Yourself
Besides getting a window breaker, there are other measures you can take to protect yourself. As previously mentioned, spring-loaded window breakers effectively tempered glass but could not break the laminated glass. Checking the type of glass your car has can save your life, as some vehicles have laminated glass for the driver and passenger seats but tempered glass for the back seats. Typically, the car will have the type of glass labeled in the bottom corner of the side window. If there is no label, contact the vehicle manufacturer to see what kind of glass your car has.
If children are in the car, make sure the oldest is the first to be freed from their seatbelt as they are more likely to be able to help siblings out of the vehicle or swim away to get help.
To help prepare your children for this worst-case scenario, teach the SWO acronym: cut the Seatbelt, break the Window, and get Out. Like teaching children to stop, drop, and roll when on fire, the SWO acronym can be helpful in their adult years, given they are in this type of accident.
What to Do After the Accident
Once you and your passengers have escaped your vehicle and are in a safe place, it can be hard to know what to do next. There are several actions you can take following the accident.
If you call AAA or other roadside assistance services, be patient as it may take a long time for help to arrive. Tow trucks used by these companies can typically drive 18 inches into a body of water to pull a submerged vehicle but cannot handle deeper waters.
After the car is removed from the body of water, the vehicle owner can not start the automobile right away. Saltwater can be corrosive to a car’s components, and it can be dangerous to start the vehicle depending on the damage. If your vehicle is wholly or partially submerged, your vehicle may need extensive disassembly to clean the entire interior. Depending on the car’s age, make, and model, a complete disassembly may be more expensive than the car’s value. In this case, insurance usually considers the vehicle “totaled.”
Depending on your situation, legal action may also be part of the process following a submerged car accident. If another party caused the accident or flooding, contacting an experienced accident attorney can help you recoup damages for a new or repaired vehicle.