Ask a Trooper: How to Survive If Your Car Plunges Into Icy Waters

The following article was written by Michigan State Trooper Mike Sura, who answers questions about Michigan law in a weekly column.

A vehicle submerged in water with electric windows can still operate for several minutes. Credit: Patch File Photo
A vehicle submerged in water with electric windows can still operate for several minutes. Credit: Patch File Photo

Not too long ago two Troopers responded to a vehicle in the water. The vehicle was not deep but was upside down, submerging the driver of the vehicle.  It was January and very cold. The Troopers who responded went into the water and ice and were able to pull the man from the vehicle.  

The Troopers were not injured and neither was the man. While driving he had lost control of his vehicle in icy conditions and went into the water. Thankfully everyone walked away from this incident cold and wet but alive. 

As Troopers one of the things we train for is water rescue.  We are taught how the body reacts when submitted to extreme cold and what the body does when submerged in ice.  We are each then given, well let’s call it an opportunity to experience this first hand.  Each Trooper on the road today has spent time in icy water.  Why do we do this, because it is important to know that things are not like the TV shows we watch. 

With all that being said it is time to tell you why I share this incident.  The real question is how did the Troopers get the person out of the vehicle.  The vehicle was upside down and submerged.  In this instance the Troopers were able to open the door and pull the man to safety.  Larry from Hamburg Township in Livingston County asks do electric windows still operate being submerged in water.  The answer is yes they do. A vehicle submerged in water with electric windows can still operate for several minutes. This gives people time to exit the vehicle or role down windows to escape. 

Things to remember if this ever happens, is to stay calm and unbuckle your seat belt.  Make sure to get children out of the vehicle first, and then exit the vehicle yourself.  As you exit if in deep enough water the vehicle will pull away from you making it hard to go back in for anyone else.  I hope no one ever finds themselves in this situation.

If you see something like this happen, do not just run into freezing waters to help.  The initial shock of entering icy waters can cause you to hyperventilate.  The muscles will tighten and you may end up another person who needs to be rescued.  Remember to call 911 immediately.  Law enforcement and rescue personal have equipment to facilitate the rescue.

Thanks for reading, I have enjoyed writing the articles this last few months and look forward to sharing more information and law enforcement incite in the upcoming year. I hope everyone has a great and safe holiday season. 

If you have a questions or comments please email them to askatrooper12@gmail.com, or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Brighton Post, 4337 Buno Road, Brighton, MI  48116.


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