Florida Vehicle Submersion Attorney
Entrapment and Submerged Vehicle Drowning Deaths
Vehicle submersion accidents are horrifying with most victims surviving the initial crash with little to no injuries, only to be trapped and drown in an often overturned car. Vehicle occupants are often trapped in the vehicle unable to use the power windows due to shortage, water pressure makes the doors impossible to open and strengthen window glass cannot be broken.
University of Manitoba Professor Gordon Giesbrecht, a vehicle submersion researcher, said the most deadly type of single-vehicle accident motorists can be involved in is vehicle submersions, accounting for up to 11 percent of all drownings.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that an average more than 300 vehicle occupants die in submersion type crashes each year, Florida leads the nation in such deaths. Every year approximately 4,800 crashes in the Sunshine State end with a car in the water, causing at least 57 fatalities.
Seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Are our vehicles entrapping us, prohibiting our escape?
- Vehicle Safety Features & Lack of Escape:
- Power Windows - Power windows often fail (short) once submerged with water, making exit nearly impossible.
- Laminated Glazing Versus Tempered Glass - The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has a proposal currently in the approval process that may lead to an increase in the use of stronger glass on side windows (to prevent ejections), which some believe will make vehicle escape even harder. There is a move to use stronger laminated glazing over tempered glass - Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 226 Ejection Mitigation.
- Lack of Vehicle Countermeasures - Lack of measures to improve survivability including protection of vehicle electronics, submersion sensors and mechanical backups.
- Poor Highway Design - Poorly maintained guardrails, missing guardrails or a lack of guardrails reduce your chances of survivability. Without proper guardrails vehicles can end up in water - canals, lakes, ponds, rivers and even the ocean.
- Insufficient 911 Dispatcher Training - In taking the call, the dispatchers follow a procedure used by dispatchers nationwide (name, location and general intake). Escape instructions often come at the end of that procedure; thereby the caller drowns before help arrives.
- Lack of Warnings and Guidelines - Florida state law requires driver's education programs to cover traffic safety laws and substance abuse, skills meant to ensure drivers stay on the road. Nonetheless, escaping a sinking car doesn't fall within those requirements.
So what is one to do if they are submerged? In Florida, it is especially important to prepare for and have a plan if your vehicle ends up in canal or other water source. You will need a tool that will allow you to escape your vehicle as you will most likely not able to use the door or open the windows. Look for a dual-purpose tool that not only breaks glass, but cuts seat belt webbing too.
To avoid panic, the escape procedure must be simple, quick, and easy to remember (POGO):
- Pop/release Seatbelt(s); release children from restraints and bring them close to an adult who can assist in their escape.
- Open or break windows.
- Get Out - children should be pushed out of the window first, and followed immediately (climb atop the car and then call for help or get to shore).
The Today Show aired a 2011 segment "Get Out Alive" - How to Survive in a Sinking Car. A Survival Systems USA instructor warned what drivers do instinctively can get them killed. They put drivers into simulators teaching them what to do if their vehicle is submerged and how to survive.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or died due to a car accident or drowned in a submerged vehicle, and would like to learn more about your legal rights, please call our car accident attorneys at 561-366-9099 or contact us here.