How to Escape a Car in an Emergency

a passenger and driver in a car

It’s a situation that can send even the most cool-headed drivers into a state of panic: you’re in an accident, and you can’t escape from your car. If you’re alone in a remote, dark area, the anxiety can really build. So it’s best to prepare for this situation before it happens.

For starters, there are products offered that claim to help you help yourself when it comes to escaping the vehicle. If you’re in a situation where your car is being submerged in a body of water, you need a tool that will help you escape the car as fast as possible. Here are some tools and items to help you in case of an emergency:

Escape Tools

ResQMe ($12.95) is a convenient keychain rescue tool that fits in the palm of your hand and can cut through seatbelts and break glass. The 4-in-1 SafetyStick Emergency Tool & Flashlight ($19.95) has a flashlight, seatbelt cutter and steel-pointed glass-break hammer, and also includes flashing red LED strobes to alert oncoming motorists of emergency situations, plus a magnet for attaching to a metal vehicle part.

Emergency Items

Regardless of whether you have extraction tools or not, you should always keep the following emergency items in your vehicle in case of a trapped or stranded car situation: a spare charged cell phone, a blanket, water, some healthy snacks such as breakfast bars or beef jerky (for protein), a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, reflective devices, a spare tire and a first aid kit.

Working Phone

If you get in a trapped-car situation without these tools, you’ll at least want a working cell phone within your reach. It’s best to have the phone connected to your body (like in a pocket or on a clip) rather than on your passenger seat or another area of the car. If it gets tossed around during a crash and you’re stuck, you may not be able to reach it.

Once you make the emergency-dispatch call, experts often advise motorists to hang tight, as long as you’re not in immediate danger by staying put. Don’t attempt to escape if you can’t safely unfasten your seat belt, open the driver door or roll down the window.

“The absolute best thing you can do in this scenario is to stay where you are,” says Chris Cochran, an assistant director with the California Office of Traffic Safety. “Wait for the emergency responders. They have medical training to treat you immediately, even while you’re pinned inside. If you try to get out yourself, or even have a bystander attempt to pull you out, it opens you up to the very real possibility of further serious injury. Emergency professionals with the Jaws of Life and other equipment have the knowledge to quickly and safely assist you.”

If you’re in any danger after an accident, call 911. Roadside Assistance from Nationwide can also help. Call 1-800-421-3535, and a service representative will confirm your location and send emergency, police or fire services.