Getting trapped in a car after an accident is a real risk that can be deadly.
Your car might have flipped upside down or on its side with you in it. Or you may have run your car into a wall or tree.
If you’re lucky enough to have survived the initial impact, that’s just the beginning. You still need to get out of the car. Otherwise, you may suffocate from all the smoke, bleed out, or die from a subsequent gas explosion.
So it’s important to know how to escape a trapped car. Hopefully, your knowledge is never put to the test, but it’s best to be prepared. If you’re ever trapped in a car, here’s what you should do:
- Stay calm
The first step is not to panic. If you do, it’ll probably only make things worse.
You may be in shock from the collision. So do your best to breathe deeply and gather your senses. Then check to see if you are seriously injured. If you are, apply first aid if possible. For example, you might need to tie a tourniquet around a severed limb to stop it from bleeding.
- Call 911
If your cellphone is handy, use it to call 911. It helps to have a speed dial option set up so that you can do this with minimal touches.
Once emergency responders arrive on the scene, they can help you escape your vehicle. So the faster you alert them, the better.
- Get bystanders to help
In the meantime, try to get bystanders to help you escape. You may need to get their attention first, especially if it’s a large accident that also involves other vehicles.
To do this, you can try honking your horn, hitting the windows, or simply yelling. Do whatever it takes to be heard.
- Check to see if any of the doors open
If there aren’t any bystanders around to help you or you can’t get their attention, you may be on your own.
In that case, first check to see if any of the car doors will open. To do this, you may need to unbuckle and remove any clothing that is stuck and holding you back.
If the doors are jammed or you can’t get them open, try to at least open a window to allow for more air circulation. In some cases, you may not even be able to do that (e.g. electric windows may have lost power).
- Try escaping through the trunk
If the doors and windows won’t open, you can try escaping through the trunk. Most cars have collapsible seats that allow you to access the trunk from the front of the car.
Per federal law, all cars built after 2002 also have release levers inside the trunk. Most are glow-in-the-dark and easy enough for a toddler to use.
- Break the window glass
If all else fails, try breaking the windows.
Side windows are tempered, which means that if they break, they will shatter into a million pieces, making it easier for you to get out. However, some car windows are laminated, in which case, you’ll also need to kick out the window to escape.
Front windows (aka windshields) aren’t tempered, which means they will crack like a spider web, making it harder to get out that way (but if that’s your only option, go for it).
When trying to break a car window, it’s best to use a pointed object like the back of a hammer. Obviously, you may not have one at your disposal in the moment, so try what you can. You may also want to keep an emergency window breaker and seatbelt cutter tool in your car for this reason. You can find them online for as little as $10.
- Help other passengers escape
Once you’ve escaped, don’t forget to help others do the same. In most cases, you will need to free yourself, before you can help others. But if not, try to prioritize those around you, especially children and the elderly.
Nobody wants to get trapped in a car. But it could happen. Now that you know what to do in this situation, you’re better prepared to make it out alive.
And if the accident was another driver’s fault, be sure to consult an experienced auto accident attorney. They can help you get the compensation you deserve for car damage, injuries, trauma, lost work, and more.
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