Expert shares what to do if your car falls into water


‘You have 1 minute to get out’: Expert shares what to do if your car falls into water

'Girl I can’t even swim.'


Jack Alban


Posted on Mar 29, 2024   Updated on Mar 28, 2024, 2:13 pm CDT

The horrifying Baltimore Key Bridge collapse over the Patapsco River, which occurred when a container rammed into the structure, resulted in the deaths of 6 individuals and the submersion of multiple vehicles.

While some of the bodies from these auto wreckages have been recovered, others haven’t, leaving their families and loved ones in mourning, and throngs of people wondering what they should do in the event of an emergency vehicle submersion scenario.

Emergency Room doctor, Dr. Darria (@therealdrdarria) uploaded a viral TikTok where she mentions that there was one common factor among all of the patients she’s treated who survived vehicular submersions: they knew exactly what to do when disaster struck and they acted fast.

She says that a safety protocol called SWOC: Seatbelts Off, Windows Open, Out of the Car, Oldest Children First, (with you taking the youngest one in your arm) is the protocol to follow. She also explains in her clip that all of these steps must be performed under 60 seconds for the best chance of survival and that opening the rear windows first is probably the best way to go, as car submersions usually happen nose first.

“If your car falls into water you have approximately one minute to get out safely. Here are the four steps that will make the difference in survival for you and your family,” Dr. Darria says in the clip. “When I take care of patients who survived vehicle submersions, it is because they knew what to do and did it immediately before they even had the time for panic to set in. I want you to be able do the same.”

Dr. Darria shows a clip simulating a sinking car. “You can see that when a car hits the water, it’s kind of like a leaky boat,” she says. “It has about a minute as it starts to sink. You also see that in most cars, they tip forward meaning that second row window stays above the water longer, that’s especially important if you have children in the car.”

She then details the steps of SWOC.

“S for seatbelts — get everybody’s seatbelts off,” she begins. “W, Window Open. Immediately open the window you’re gonna be using the exit. If you have kids in the car, you’ll probably want to use that second row window to buy you more time and because your kids are in the second row.”

Dr. Darria moves onto O: get everyone out of the car. And then: “C, for oldest children first, taking that youngest one with you,” she concludes.

Numerous people who responded to her video responded that they were shocked to see Dr. Darria’s video pop up on their TikTok feed shortly after they heard news of the Baltimore Bridge falling.

“The way I’m seeing this for the first time this morning after the Baltimore bridge collapsed,” one person wrote.

Another said: “This popped up on my fyp after the Baltimore bridge went down.”

“The algorithm is on fire today,” another quipped.

@therealdrdarria If you’ve ever driven over a bridge or past water and thought “what would i do if my car fell in”, then this post is for you.  As an ER doctor, it’s my JOB to think of emergencies and how I’d respond –  and my mission to help you do the same. Once your car hits the water, you have approximately ONE minute to get out. So, I talked with one of the leading experts in car submersion events, Gordon Giesbrecht (IG professorpopsicle), to find out EXACTLY what to do, to help save you and your family.  “WHEN passengers had an appropriate response planned, exit could be accomplished quickly” Watch the video for the 4 steps. Plus,some myth-busting 1. Do NOT rely on glass-breakers. It takes precious time to FIND your glass-breaker, ANDd (2) many modern cars have side windows made with laminated glass (just like the windshield), and glass-breakers will NOT break that.  2. Electrical windows WILL open. The issue isn’t the electricity – it’s pressure. You just need to open the window before the water has reached ⅓ – ½ of the way up (ideally before the water has even risen to the window level). 3. Some popular guidance says to “wait until the car has flooded with water, then open the door”. Do NOT do this, unless as last resort. 4. Go out the window – don’t try to open the door. The water pressure could make it slam back on you, AND this makes the car fill with water MUCH faster.  5. DO NOT DELAY. Do not do ANYTHING else first but SWOC. 6. Why the oldest child first? Let out the ones who need the least help first, so you can have both arms on the youngest.  7. Never get out of the car before your child – if the car suddenly fills with water and you’re out of it, you’d have a very difficult time getting back to it. But if you’re both inside and you’re holding the child, you can still swim out.  Repeat SWOC to yourself. Burn it on your brain, in hopes you’ll NEVER EVER need it, and share it with other mamas out there.  Video credit of sinking car: Gordon Giesbrecht #carsafety #emergency #emergencypreparedness #emergencymedicine #doctor #erdoctor #doctorsoftiktok ♬ original sound – TheRealDrDarria

However, others said this technique probably wouldn’t even help them as they wouldn’t know what to do once they’re in the water. “Girl I can’t even swim,” one wrote.

Some folks said that auto manufacturers could help with this issue by utilizing a safety feature that could give passengers extra time before their car is fully submerged.

“Vehicles need a water pressure switch that activates all airbags to float the vehicle up to safety,” a commenter suggested.

Others shared the precautionary methods some commuters employ while driving, like this pool noodle hack: “I saw a tip for anxious moms where they say to cut a pool noodle and keep it under the seat and God forbid you need a flotation device for your kids it’s there.”

Another TikTok user said that whenever they’re driving on a bridge or any body of water, that they make sure to open their vehicle’s windows in case things go awry. “I open window over any body of water,” they said.

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*First Published: Mar 29, 2024, 2:00 am CDT