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Holding Icon How to Escape from a Sinking Car

How to Escape from a Sinking Car

SAS survival expert, John 'Lofty' Wiseman

If you've underestimated the depth of a flooded area, attempted to cross and find yourself in difficulty - don't panic!

  • Assess
    If the car is not sinking and the water is not rising, decide whether you are safer staying with the car or attempting to get to dry land. Always go for the option which poses the least risk and only attempt to leave the car if it is feasible and safe to do so (consider factors such as a current which may increase the danger).
  • Path Of Least Resistance
    If you decide to leave the car, always get out on the side with least water resistance. Don't attempt to open a car door against the flow of moving water which could destabilise the vehicle.
  • Waiting
    If you elect to remain with the car, stand on the roof and wait for the water to subside (bearing in mind that conditions may change and cars can become buoyant extremely quickly).
  • Head For Land
    If you decide it is safe to try and reach dry land, use whatever materials you have available to you to move safely through the water. A pole or stick is good for added balance when wading, whilst a tow rope can be used as a safety line if there is someone on land who can tie it securely.

Survival Tip

Assess the situation and always risk the least. (Lofty)

  • Wading
    Roll-up trousers - so that they offer less resistance. Consider taking them off and putting them in a plastic bag if they are not already wet so you have something dry to change into when you reach safety.
    • Keep shoes on - they will give you better grip than bare feet as well as protecting you from potentially dangerous submerged obstacles.
    • Turn your body - proceed at a slight angle to the current with your back towards the bank you want to reach so that the current helps you to move in that direction.
    • Small steps - do not take strides but shuffle using a stick if you have one to test the water ahead and ensure there is a secure footing.
  • Go Back
    Head towards the point where your vehicle entered the water. You don't know what's ahead but heading back you will be on familiar ground.
  • Seeking Help
    If you are in a remote location and help is not immediately at hand, consider the direction you've have just come from and whether you have passed somewhere that could aid you (a pub or petrol station for example). If you have not passed anything for miles, then it may be wiser to assume there is help ahead.

Winter Survival Guide

Download the complete guide

Winter Survival Guide cover


Amid falling temperatures and rising levels of concern among drivers, Halfords Autocentres has worked with renowned survival expert, former SAS Sergeant Major and author of the best-selling SAS Survival Handbook John 'Lofty' Wiseman to create the ultimate Motoring Survival Guide.

Download the complete guide or read on for more winter survival advice.