Now that winter is fully upon us, the deadly potential for motorists and their vehicles to fall through ice into frigid waters has increased greatly, particularly for those who live in northern states where rivers and lakes can become covered by seemingly thick frozen sheets of ice.
Whether you purposefully drove onto the ice to reach a prime spot for ice-fishing or accidentally ended up on the ice after sliding off a slick road, there are some incredibly important things to keep in mind that could save your life if you end up in such a dire situation, according to Wide Open Spaces.
Obviously, the first thing to do is get out of the vehicle immediately, if at all possible.
Aside from remaining calm, an initial consideration should be to quickly lower a window and crack open up a door while unbuckling the seatbelt prior to the vehicle becoming submerged under water, as the immense pressure outside of the car will likely prevent the door from opening or even a window from being rolled down — not to mention that water will quickly short out the power windows of most newer vehicles, preventing them from moving.
If you are unable to immediately open a door or window prior to sinking under water, you will have to wait until the interior of the car fills with water to equalize the pressure and then open the door to escape.
In the event that the door won’t open and window won’t come down, you may be able to break it with your foot or shoulder, or even better a handy tool with hardened steel designed for shattering vehicle glass, which are sometimes included on pocketknives and flashlights.
Above all, try to remain as calm as possible throughout the ordeal, as being calm will allow you to think straight and act decisively.
According to Popular Mechanics, other things to consider when escaping from a sinking or submerged vehicle is to not bother calling 911 until after you have already made it to safety.
First responders, no matter how fast they are, will most likely not arrive in time to rescue you from the sinking vehicle, and the time spent on the phone with a 911 operator is critical time that should be spent trying to escape the vehicle.
When a vehicle first hits the water, there is a roughly 30-second time period during which the vehicle will float before it begins to sink. Time is of the essence in getting out before the vehicle is entirely under water.
In the unfortunate event that you have children in the vehicle with you, do everything possible to allow them to escape the vehicle before you — preferably the oldest child first, as they can assist with younger children from outside the submerged vehicle.
Wide Open Spaces separately advised on a handful of important items it is a good idea to have on hand in the event one falls through the ice or becomes stranded in an icy environment. It would be wise to have such items packed together in a bag that is within reach so it can be accessed immediately in the event of an emergency, and not locked away in the trunk to sink along with the vehicle.
Some of the items that could prove useful, if not life-saving, include an ice spud for testing the thickness of an ice sheet, ice picks for grabbing hold of the hold of the slick surface if you need to pull yourself out of the water, or even ice cleats to walk on an ice sheet without slipping and falling.
It is also a great idea to keep a loud whistle handy to signal for help, as unless your cell phone is waterproof or kept inside a waterproof container or plastic bag, it will be worthless once it gets wet.
Last but not least, it isn’t a bad idea to have some type of life-jacket or personal flotation device handy, though putting one on inside the vehicle could prove too bulky to exit the vehicle through a window.
Again, the most important thing in all of this is to try and remain calm — certainly easier said than done, but something that can be attained simply by thinking ahead about plausible scenarios and plotting a course of action prior to ending up in an emergency situation.
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