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FKRM professor Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht in a sinking car demonstration

Most people don’t know how to get out of a sinking vehicle

June 3, 2019 — 

How to get out of a submerging vehicle isn’t common knowledge, according to a recent report in Injury Epidemiology.

The Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management-based study found a majority of people had knowledge of vehicle submersions from the media, but they were unaware of an effective self-rescue protocol.

Vehicle submersions account for up to 10 per cent of all drownings in high-income countries. Reports indicate that occupants may be conscious and functional, but possibly making incorrect decisions for self-rescue leading to drowning.

The study investigated current public knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding vehicle submersion incidents and to determine if individuals, who are aware of educational efforts regarding vehicle submersions, indicated better responses.

“Even though the probability of being in a vehicle submersion is low, this type of accident has one of the highest mortality rates of any type of single-vehicle accident, and death by drowning is usually preventable,” says Gerren McDonald, the study’s co-author and University of Manitoba Applied Health Sciences PhD student.

McDonald adds that passengers have only about one minute to self-exit from a sinking vehicle; they should not rely on calling emergency dispatch.

“Simply increasing public knowledge of SWOC [SEATBELTS off, WINDOWS open, OUT immediately, CHILDREN first] would help to decrease the high fatality rate associated with this type of road traffic accident.”


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