Car Crash Survival

A car accident is one of the most dangerous things the average person will come in contact with during their life. This guide is posted in the hope that it will help its readers avoid injury or death. It should be noted that every vehicle is different, and much of the information here (such as airbags) will not apply to those who drive vehicles from 1990 or earlier. The methods of avoiding an accident, and the position one should be in during a crash, however, are effectively universal.

Useful tips

  • If you are purchasing a new vehicle, be sure to note the standard and optional safety features, such as where and how many air bags come with the car. Research crash test results, and consider built-in monitoring services such as General Motors' OnStar system. These can notify emergency personnel of an accident.
  • The worst place for the vast majority of vehicles to be hit is dead center on the sides. There is very little between those inside the vehicle and the outside world, and support beams must fit around doors and windows.
  • Do NOT bend over or cover your head. In the event of a roll over, any force significant enough to warp in the roof and bend or break the A-beams might hit your head, and possibly knock you unconscious. It is unlikely to do nearly as much damage as that caused to your neck from having your head in front of the air bags when they deploy.
  • This guide does not guarantee its practitioners' safety, and it and it's writers take no responsibility for any injuries sustained.
  1. For the vast majority of accidents, you will either have no warning or too little warning to accomplish anything. For this reason, you can prepare most before you get on the road. Although most accidents will be minor fender-benders, injury can still occur if a person is not sitting properly, or if a car-seat is placed improperly
  2. Make sure the safety systems on your car are serviced regularly. Airbags and seat-belts significantly reduce injury and death in automobile accidents.
  3. Make sure the non-safety systems on your car are serviced regularly. If you see an accident coming, having your brakes, engine, transmission, and suspension in top condition can help you minimize the damage. The safest accident is the one you don't get in, so if you see an accident coming, try to brake or accelerate away from it. If you can't avoid an accident, attempt to be hit on the front or rear of the car - vehicles are structurally stronger front-back than side-side. If you cannot manage this, attempt to maneuver so that the other vehicle(s) strike the front or rear quarter panels of your vehicle, which will transfer part of the force into spinning your vehicle, rather than directly striking it.
  4. Before you leave, securely fasten your seat-belt and check your vehicle's dashboard for warning lights indicating any failures.
  5. While driving, sit up straight, don't talk on your cell phone or to your friends, and focus on the road and the vehicles around you.
  6. If you are a passenger, sit up straight with your seat-belt fastened. Don't overly slouch, don't put your feet up on the dashboard, and definitely do not distract the driver.
  7. Drive safely, obeying the law, and being conscious of current conditions. Sixty mph may be safe when it's dry, but if a sudden rain falls, wetting the roadway and raising oil off the ground, it will probably be safer to drive at a lower speed.
  8. If you are in a crash, you will not be able to control where your body goes. Car accidents happen far faster, and with far more force than the human body can react to.
  9. If you see an accident coming, do not hunch, duck, or move out of the normal driving position, as this will reduce the effectiveness of your vehicle's safety systems. These systems are designed to work for the majority of accidents, where the driver is unaware of what's coming. Ducking closer to the steering wheel or dash will reduce the amount of space the seat-belt has to activate in, increasing the likelihood you will strike your head on part of the car. For vehicles equipped with air bags, the closer your head is to the bag before it engages, the more head and neck damage you will receive. Stay upright, hold onto the steering wheel if you're the driver or your headrest if you're a passenger, and be prepared for a jolt.
  10. If your vehicle catches fire, move yourself and anyone else well away from it in case of explosion.
  11. If your vehicle exits the roadway into water, exit the vehicle as soon as is at all possible. If the vehicle slips below the water, you will not be able to get out until it fills with water, due to the pressure on the outside of the car.

How to Escape from a Sinking Car

1. As soon as you hit the water, open your window. This is your best chance of escape, because opening the door will be very difficult given the outside water pressure. (To be safe, you should drive with the windows and doors slightly open whenever you are near water or driving on ice.) Opening the window allows water to come in and equalize the pressure. Once the water pressure inside and outside the car is equal, you’ll be able to open the door.

2. If your power windows won’t work or you cannot roll your windows down all the way, attempt to break the glass with your foot, shoulder, or a heavy object such as an antitheft steering wheel lock.

3. Get out. Do not worry about leaving anything behind unless it is another person. Vehicles with engines in front will sink at a steep angle. If the water is fifteen feet or deeper, the vehicle may end up on its roof, upside down. For this reason, you must get out as soon as possible, while the car is still afloat. Depending on the vehicle, floating time will range from a few seconds to a few minutes. The more airtight the car, the longer it floats. Air in the car will be quickly forced out through the trunk and cab. An air bubble is unlikely to remain once the car hits bottom. Get out as early as possible.

4. If you are unable to open the window or break it, you have one final option. Remain calm and do not panic. Wait until the car begins filling with water. When the water reaches your head, take a deep breath and hold it. Now the pressure should be equalized inside and outside, and you should be able to open the door and swim to the surface.


How to Escape from a Sinking Car

  • Be careful when breaking the windows, as glass can fly around and you may cut yourself, especially if you need to use your elbow or feet.
  • Don't take anything heavy or unnecessary with you, and remember that everything is unnecessary in this situation. If your wallet and cell phone are already in your pockets, you can leave them in there, but don’t try to collect other belongings.
  • Fluids from the engine that are lighter than water may seep into the car, and the fumes from these can pollute your air pocket. Get out of the vehicle as soon as you can.
  • Don’t wait for help. Rescuers will most likely not be able to reach you in time, and even if they do, there’s usually not much they can do for you. You’re on your own.