Dear Matt: My friends and I were recently driving over the bay bridge in San Francisco. During the drive, we started thinking about how to escape a sinking car. In the movies, stunt people seem to escape with ease, yet in newspaper articles it seems that many people are unable to get out of a sinking car. So here is my question. Is it possible to escape a sinking car (with and without power locks)? If it is, how do you do it? — Gurgle, Gurgle, Gurgle, the Net
Meaning no offense, Gurgles, but MOVIES ARE NOT REAL LIFE. Stunt people escape from cars in movies because they are paid a whole bunch of money to know how to set up the gag so it goes smoothly, and they have safety equipment and specially rigged vehicles and tricky camera angles and clever editing. And MOVIES ARE NOT REAL LIFE. Sorry for shouting.
Luckily, if you plunge off the bay bridge, you’ll never need to worry about the fine points of exiting a sinking car. But if you insist on being hyper-prepared for any eventuality, laminate these instructions and hang them from the rear view, right next to that dumb cardboard pine tree, so you can refer to them as the rushing water climbs past your door handles.
When I posed this one to a member of the San Diego Lifeguards River Rescue Team, he sighed and said, from local experience, the best thing to do is leave the roadblocks in place and not drive into raging torrents of flood water. I suggested the question had certainly come from a carload of boneheads who couldn’t be counted on to do the sensible thing. And he goes, “Well, there are so many variables, it’s hard to state any rules.” And I go, “Well, like, give it a shot.” And he goes, “Well, it really depends....” And I go, “I’ll make it worth your while.” And he goes, “Well, open the downstream window [break it, roll it down], climb onto the car, and stay with it until help comes.”
So I go, “Well, what if you’re, like, in the tules? Nothing but vultures for miles, man.” So he goes, “I hate to say this is always the best thing to do, because it really depends on conditions. But if you decide you have to make a break for it, float on your back with your feet pointed downstream, point your head on an angle to the closest shore, and backstroke. With your feet pointed downstream, you can fend off any debris you encounter, because the force of the water will still be carrying you in that direction.” So I go, “Like, thanks, man,” and hung up before he reported me as a crank caller. So, Gurgles, I guess the answer to your question is, carry a big hammer in the glove compartment.