Ask a Trooper: Tips on escaping a vehicle in the water

One answer can't explain it all, but here are some tips to consider should you find yourself in a sinking vehicle.

Blue water in swimming pool
If you find yourself sinking in water, the first tip is to try not to panic.
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Question: I saw your recent article about flooded roads. Do you have any advice on what a person should do if their vehicle plunges into the water?
Answer: The dynamics of such an incident are ever-changing, so there is no one answer that will cover it all. Having witnessed and responded to these types of situations, here is what I would recommend.
Most vehicles will float on the water’s surface for 30 to 60 seconds. If your vehicle enters deep water, make every attempt to get out immediately. If possible, exit the vehicle through open windows before the water reaches the window level.

Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

If your vehicle becomes submerged, try not to panic. Vehicle doors cannot be opened until water pressure inside the car is equal to that pressure outside. When the vehicle is completely filled, doors can be opened, if there is no structural damage.

The engine’s weight will cause the front end of the car to sink first. The rear passenger compartment may provide an air pocket while you plan your escape strategy. If there are other people in the vehicle, determine their condition and try to exit the vehicle together.

I would advise everyone to take swimming lessons. This is a life skill that can save your life and the life of someone else.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, ).

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