LCSO Tip of the Week – Cars in Waterways

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Sheriff Lincoln County Logo LCSO Tip of the Week Featured Image


Sheriff Dennis L. Dotson

225 W. Olive Street

Newport, Oregon 97365

Tel (541) 265-4277

Fax  (541) 265-4926


Date: February 15, 2016


It seems like every year a car ends up in one of Lincoln County’s waterways. Motorists have ended up in the Alsea, Siletz, Yaquina Rivers and even the Salmon River. If you spend much time driving along a body of water, it’s a good idea to have a plan of what to do in case you find your car sinking or fully submerged in water.

Most cars will stay afloat for only a brief time when driven into a deep body of water and remain in an upright position. Usually the weight of the engine causes it to pitch forward and settle underwater nose-down. If you should find yourself in this predicament, the first thing to remember is DON’T PANIC! (No doubt easier said than done once the water starts to quickly fill the compartment)

The priority for survival is to Get Out of the Vehicle! Immediately and simultaneously, unbuckle your seatbelt and roll down your windows. If they are power windows, this may pose a problem if the water has shorted the electrical circuits. So don’t delay in attempting this action.

Rolling down the windows can result in more water to start rushing in, but by doing so; this will only increase your chance of escaping successfully. Some people have escaped because they successfully rolled down the window and began crawling out prior to the water reaching the bottom of the window area.

Some people think that if they don’t roll down the windows and are trapped underwater, they can sustain themselves for a period of time on a bubble of air that will remain in the interior of the car. Don’t count on this. Even if an air pocket is formed and you can find it, there probably won’t be a sufficient amount of oxygen for any substantial amount of time.

To complicate this type of emergency, sometimes the car will be turned upside down, or the windows can’t be opened, or the person is too large to fit through the window. The ease or difficulty in opening a door will depend upon how much of the car is submersed. Wait until the car’s interior is completely flooded to somewhat balance the pressure, and then push the door open. However, when possible, do not wait for this to happen. If you can push the door open, GET OUT!

Even if the car is upside down, these same safety principles will work. Don’t panic and remember…Push the button to release your seatbelt and GET OUT.

Even if you infrequently drive on roadways near or adjacent to open water, a smart addition to your car would be a device called “RES-Q-ME”. This tool is available at some automotive and retail outlets, and from Internet sources. It is an inexpensive tool that can attach to a key chain or clip to a sun visor for easy access. This tool will shatter a car window and automatically reload itself should more windows require breaking.

For more tips and information, visit our website, use the “MobilePatrol” app on your Smartphone, and Like us on Facebook.