Safety Reminder: What to Do If Your Car Is Caught in a Flood

By Matt Schmitz  on April 18, 2013

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A storm system moving across the South and Midwest is leaving damage and danger in its wake today. In Chicago — where Cars.com is based — heavy rains and widespread flooding have resulted in the closures of three expressways and numerous major streets, hundreds of canceled airline flights, bus- and train-route disruptions, school closures and evacuations of some areas.

Flash flooding has also resulted in that familiar and unfortunate sight of swamped cars. Remember: Never try to cross or drive on a flooded roadway. Even a couple feet of water is enough to sweep away your vehicle — and you with it. But if you do find yourself trapped in a flooded vehicle, Cars.com reiterates the following important safety tips:

Do

  • Stay calm. You'll need your wits about you.
  • Turn on your headlights and hazard lights. This will make it easier for emergency personnel to see you.
  • Unbuckle your seat belt.
  • Unlock your doors.
  • Take jackets and outer clothing off.
  • Lower your window. Most electric windows should work unless the car is completely submerged in water.
  • If you can lower the windows, do so, but slowly. Climb out. Get to high ground and call 911.
  • If the windows will not open, you'll have to use a door to get out. But you won't be able to open a door until the water pressure is equalized between the outside and the inside of the car. This means you'll have to wait for water to enter the car and fill up to about your neck level (this sounds terrifying, but this is the only way the doors will open).
  • Once the doors are open, tread water and swim to safety; call 911.

Don't

  • Do not panic.
  • Do not use your energy trying to open the doors because water pressure will keep them from budging (wait for the pressure to equalize).
  • Do not try to save your possessions.
  • Do not try to break windows to get out. If water pressure has not equalized, glass will explode inward toward you or other occupants.
  • Once out, do not stay with your car. Get to high ground.
  • Do not stand on the roof of your car. If your car is swept away, you'll be carried away with it. You could also fall and injure yourself if the car shifts abruptly.
  • Do not return to your car if you think the water level is going down. Water levels could rise without warning. Allow emergency personnel to tow your vehicle to a safe place.
Related
What to Do if Your Car Has Been Flooded
How to Know if You're Buying a Flood-Damaged Car

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