Five teenagers died June 25 after a 2021 Kia Forte crashed into a retention pond in Fort Myers.
Many Florida roadways are near canals, retention ponds, rivers and lakes. Do you know what to do if your car goes into the water? Planning ahead could save your life.
According the American Automobile Association, cars may float on top of the water for 30 seconds to two minutes before sinking. Water pressure on the side of the car will prevent the doors from opening, If possible, open a window and get everyone out before the vehicle goes under water.
If the car is completely submerged, exiting the vehicle is more difficult.
If trapped in a submerged vehicle, AAA offers this S-U-R-E way out:
• Stay calm. While time is of the essence – work cautiously to ensure everyone safely exits the vehicle.
• Unbuckle seat belts and check to see that everyone is ready to leave the car when it’s time. Cut seat belts if necessary. Remove children from car seats.
• Roll down or break a window – remember if the car is sinking in water, once the window is open the water will rush into the car at a faster rate. If the window will not open and the car has tempered glass, use an escape tool to break a side window and escape, pushing children out first. If a window will not open and cannot be broken, everyone should move to the back of the vehicle or wherever an air pocket is located. The pressure of the water outside the vehicle will prevent the doors from opening until enough water has entered the vehicle to equalize the pressure. When sufficient air has left the vehicle, the pressure should equalize, allowing occupants to open a door and escape. Even with the pressure equalized, the doors will be difficult to open. You may have to push with your feet.
• Exit the vehicle quickly and move everyone to safety. If the water is murky, follow air bubbles to the surface.
Call 911 – while this is typically the first step in an emergency, if a vehicle has hit the water or is on fire, it is best to try to escape first, AAA advises. If the vehicle is in the water, seconds matter.
The majority of side windows are made from tempered glass, which shatters when broken, while front windshields are made with laminated glass, which is nearly impossible to break, AAA advises. Since 2018, more auto manufacturers have starting using laminated glass for side windows to reduce the risk of a passenger being ejected during a collission. Still, a majority of vehicles have at least one window with tempered glass, an AAA study found.
AAA urges drivers to know what type of window glass is installed on their vehicles, keep a secure and easily accessible escape tool in their cars and have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work. Drivers should also carry a tool to cut seatbelts. Many commercial escape tools include a blade that can be used to cut seat belts.
According to AAA, drivers can determine the type of glass installed on their vehicle by checking for a label located in the bottom corner of the side window, which should indicate whether the glass is tempered or laminated. If this label is missing, AAA advises contacting the vehicle manufacturer. Some vehicles are outfitted with different glass at varying locations in the car, such as tempered glass on rear side windows versus laminated on front side windows.
In 2018, AAA tested consumer tools designed to help drivers break their car window. The study found the spring-loaded tools were more effective in breaking tempered glass than hammer-style tools. None of the tools tested could break the laminated glass. In addition, if the vehicle is submerged, a hammer-style escape tool could be much harder to swing underwater.
AAA offers the following tips:
• Memorize the type of glass the vehicle windows are made of – tempered or laminated. If the car has at least one tempered window, this will be the best point of exit in an emergency. Also, remember that standard escape tools will not break laminated glass.
• Keep an escape tool in the car that the driver is comfortable using, has previously tested and is easy to access following a collision. To make sure a vehicle escape tool is working properly, test it ahead of time on a softer surface such as a piece of soft wood. The tool works if the tip impacts the surface, leaving a small indent in the material.
• Plan an exit strategy in advance and communicate it to everyone in the car. This will help avoid confusion in an emergency, which could increase the time it takes to exit the vehicle. Also, have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work.
According to the Fort Myers Police Department report, in the June 25 crash, the vehicle was traveling more than 70 mph in a 25 mph zone when the driver lost control of the vehicle, which hit an embankment and went into the water. Three of the teens received blunt force trauma injuries, all five teens drowned.