Expert: Open window, not phone, if vehicle is under water
WINNIPEG -- An expert on how to escape from a vehicle sinking in the water said the first thing one should do is open a window. "You have to get out of the vehicle while it's still on the surface," said Gord Giesbrecht, a professor of Thermophysi...
WINNIPEG -- An expert on how to escape from a vehicle sinking in the water said the first thing one should do is open a window.
"You have to get out of the vehicle while it's still on the surface," said Gord Giesbrecht, a professor of Thermophysiology in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management at the University of Manitoba.
"If your vehicle ends up in the water, do not touch your cell phone. You have a one-minute opportunity to escape while it's on the surface.
"A phone call just uses up that valuable time, and you can't accomplish anything with that call anyway -- no one is going to rescue you. You're on your own."
Three students from Dickinson State University in North Dakota drowned this week after driving into a pond.
The bodies of the three women -- Ashley Neufeld, 21, Brandon, Man.; Kyrstin Gemar, 22, San Diego; and Afton Williamson, 20, Lake Elsinore, Calif., were found Tuesday inside a Jeep Cherokee at the bottom of a farm pond.
The trio -- members of the school's softball team --had gone stargazing Sunday night and likely didn't see the pond in the dark field, police said.
The students were believed to be in the Jeep when two of their friends received phone calls late Sunday before the lines quickly went dead. Police described the first as a "very scratchy" call for help in which one of the students said they were near water.
While reaching for a cell phone is a natural reaction, Giesbrecht said opening a window is the best bet for survival.
He was part of a research project in 2005, which was presented at the Canadian Multidisciplinary Road Safety Conference in June 2006, which looked at vehicle submersion and how to get out.
At the time, 400 North Americans died annually in submerged vehicles.
Opening doors is not an option because the pressure of the water is holding them closed, so that leaves windows as the only escape route, Giesbrecht said.
His study noted that a vehicle will float for only 30 seconds to a maximum of two minutes before the water reaches the bottom of the side windows, so that's the most optimum time to escape through windows.
More than half of the public questioned during the study mistakenly believed the best strategy was to stay in the vehicle until it filled with water or sank to the bottom.
"Every second that goes by your chances of escape decreases," Giesbrecht said.
"The conception is right -- everyone hears about pressure equality so you can open the door when the vehicle is full of water -- but the problem is when the vehicle is filled with water you have no margin for error."
Power windows should keep working for up to three minutes submerged in water, but just in case, he keeps a device hanging from his rear-view mirror to break the side window, Giesbrecht said.
"I will probably never need it, but it's there."