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The decision to escape the vehicle must be made as soon as the vehicle leaves the road and enters the water.
If the occupants delay their escape from the vehicle and the vehicle begins to sink before an escape route has been established, it may not be possible to effect an escape until the water pressure has equalized inside the vehicle.
In order to accomplish this, these emergency procedures should be rehearsed before the emergency occurs. Use a body reference point to identify and locate the door latch, window crank or electric window switch. As an example, the driver should practice finding the location of these by touching his knee or hip with his/her left hand and then move the hand laterally to the door. A rescue/escape tool should be immediately available for punching out the window and cutting seatbelts. This tool should be mounted on the sidewall of the driver’s side compartment, attached to the key ring, or located in some other conspicuous location that can be easily accessed during an emergency. Consideration should be given to additional tools for the passenger side and rear seat compartments as well. (Note: the ResQMe spring-loaded window punch is designed to be attached to the keyring, so it is always accessible to the driver.)
If there are multiple occupants, once an escape route has been established, each occupant should hold hands to form a human chain and everyone should exit from the same route. If young children are secured in car seats, the seat belts should be removed or cut and the child removed. (Note: some car seats are sufficiently buoyant to float a child to the surface. But, you should check with the manufacturer to determine whether or not your car seats are sufficiently buoyant to do so.)
There is no doubt that when a vehicle leaves the roadway and plunges into the water, this would be an extremely frightening experience, especially during the winter months with cold water posing additional risks and hazards to the occupants. But, by rehearsing the emergency escape and survival procedures and having the rescue/escape tools readily available, occupants can rapidly self-extricate themselves from this situation before the vehicle begins to sink.
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