South Florida has many ponds, lakes, canals and waterways. While these provide natural habitats for animals and are a lovely scenic feature of the region, they can also pose a serious additional danger in the event of a car accident. Car accidents that end with vehicles submerged in water are common in South Florida. Cars that lose control near a waterway can eventually end up in the waterway, leading to a serious threat to the driver and any passengers.
All car accidents are risky and are leading causes of many personal injuries, including brain injuries, burn injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other serious problems. Car crashes involving waterways, however, pose the additional risk of drowning as well.
A local newspaper looked at car accidents involving waterways in the South Florida area and found that between 2004 and 2007, Palm Beach County had 29 fatal waterway car accidents while the tri-city area had 74. Broward had 23 fatal crashes while Miami-Dade had 22. In these types of accidents, 89 people were killed in the area, including 24 passengers and 10 children. Weather and visibility did not necessarily play a role, since more than 33% of the accidents occurred in the daytime and more than 66% occurred when skies were clear and visibility was good.
According to authorities, there are several things that drivers can do if they find themselves losing control of a vehicle and heading towards the water:
1) Stay calm and still. Moving around in the vehicle can cause further injuries.
2) Wait until the vehicle is in the water, and then unbuckle your seat belt. While the driver’s impulse may be to unbuckle quickly in order to get out of the car, if you hit the water without a seat belt, experts warn, you could be knocked unconscious or seriously injured by the impact of the car against the water. Experts recommend that drivers keep scissors or a similar tool in the glove compartment in case the seat belts become stuck.
3) If the vehicle floats at first, quickly lower the windows the escape. Always climb out of the window, experts warn, since opening the door can cause water to rush into the car, flooding it too quickly to permit escape.
4) If you are traveling with passengers, unbuckle your own seat belt and then help your passengers.
5) If the car is submerged before you and your passengers are free of your seat belts, lower your windows and swim to the surface of the water. Power windows will work for a few minutes after submersion but if you find they do not, use a blunt object in the car to break down a side or rear window. Side windows will generally be the easiest to break and the windshield is nearly impossible to break. If there are children on board with you, push them out of the window and away from the car before following them out of the car.
6) If the car overturns in the water, push against the seat of the car for support and hold one arm against the roof of the car to balance yourself. Undo your seat belt, open or break a window, and swim out.