A Writer’s Guide to…Escaping a Sinking Car!

Writers can get people into and out of trouble with a handful of eloquent words and some convenient coincidences. It’s no wonder then that we are the first people you turn to for advice on how not to die and stuff. With this in mind, I have decided to take on the heavy burden of writing some guides for that very purpose – to save lives!

Disclaimer: Following these guidelines may result in death.

Next up on the list of things you, the Hero, may get into trouble with is attempting to operate a vehicle in deep water.

Quayside Sign

Problem: Water (in your car and lungs)
Goal: To not die
Description: Wet and not dense enough to drive on
Difficulty: Difficult

We’ve all been there: We’re at a party in a generic approximation of the Hollywood Hills at some famous person’s party – perhaps our own – and got drunk, had a public argument with our lover or agent or (twist!) both, jumped/fallen into our Ferrari to have a drive to clear our head, and lo! a wide-eyed deer in the road makes us swerve and crash through the barrier into an inconveniently placed lake or reservoir.

The natural instinct is to panic. This is good. It means you’re alive, and it might sober you up just enough to keep yourself that way. Scream. Scrabble. Claw at the glass. If you cry loud enough, God might hear you. Conversely, something else might hear you, in which case be extremely careful with the wording of any deals you may make. Failing this, it is time to regain your Zen.

Many people die every year in car accidents involving a submerged car, so it is important to understand what is happening, and know in advance what to do. If this is not the case and you are currently sinking, you might like to take time to read this guide; however, remember that the car will sink in a maximum of two minutes and the average person cannot hold their breath for long even without the strenuous activity of trying not to drown, so speed read.

Note 1: As you scream at the rapidly approaching water, keep your hands firmly on the steering wheel to A) brace yourself, and B) ensure the airbag does not force your hands into your face and cause you punch yourself unconscious. This would be embarrassing.

Note 2: As soon as you are in the water and the airbag has broken your nose and potentially caused you to inhale the toxic chemicals inside it, unfasten your seatbelt. If you have a knife handy, it may be more heroic and dramatic to cut yourself free and then place the knife between your teeth.

Note 3: If there are any children or anyone else needing assistance, unfasten their seatbelts and calmly explain to them that they need to refrain from panicking or else their selfishness will use up the air and kill you all. All the while there is air, breathe calmly and deeply, preparing your lungs for when you have to hold your breath.

Note 4: Open your window. This is particularly important to do as soon as you and your passengers are free because the electrics will stop working after two or three minutes (although, by this time you’ll have sunk anyway). Don’t bother with the door unless you have superhuman strength or are some kind of cyborg – you will not be able to open it.

Double Jeopardy Car Underwater

Note 5: If you are unable to open the window, you will need to break it. Side windows and the rear window are breakable, but the windscreen is not. If you are a real Hero, you can punch it. If you are rubbish Hero you can kick it close to front edge where it is weakest (like you). If you are a total basic, you may need to use a tool to break the glass.

Shooting it out may redeem you a little, but do so up close as the bullet will only travel a couple of feet. Otherwise, use something hard and heavy, like the hammer you carry around in your door compartment. Pulling out the headrest of your seat might give you access to a pointed metal spike of sorts. Aim your tool for the centre of the window and thrust hard, unafraid of glass shards because you are a Hero. And because car windows break into neat, safe pieces, not shards.

Note 6: If you are feeling adventurous, wait until the car has entirely filled with water and it hits the bottom. Don’t forget to take a deep breathe while there is still air left. At this point, the pressure inside and out will have equalised, and you will be able to open the door. This is boring, so heroically break the window.

Do not attempt to breathe the water. Yes, it is more readily available than air now, but it may prove detrimental to your health.

Note 7: Children are dim. If you have any, make sure they take a deep breath before they submerge (unless you left them at home). If you have a self-inflating dinghy handy, give it to them immediately outside so that they can get to the surface easily. Failing that, ensure children too young or unable to swim are with an adult.

Note 8: Use light, bubbles, sinking objects, and anything else about you to determine which way is up, and swim in that direction. That is where air is. Also potentially your armed attackers. Remember, bullets don’t travel far in water, so don’t worry about being shot. Yet.

Note 9: Swim at a shallow angle to the side so as to avoid breaking surface near the mafiosos/terrorists/assassins/shark-bears with laser guns. Do not waste time feeling relieved at fresh air – get to land before exhaustion causes you to sink all over again or someone spots you.

Note 10: Take revenge. Or call an ambulance/flag down a passing car.

Underwater Gunfire

Congratulations: Gravity is weak and you are strong; water is…wet and you will be dry when someone gives you a towel. This will teach your spurned lover or agent, or unfortunate circumstance, or those meddling kids. Unless those airbag chemicals get you.

Next time on A Writer’s Guide…something different to this time!

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