It was a year ago on August 1, that the I-35 bridge, an 8 lane steel arch which spanned across the mighty Mississippi in Minneapolis, Minnesota, suddenly collapsed during rush hour traffic. The horrific event killed 13 people and injured at least 100 motorists and their passengers.
A few times each week, I also cross the Mississippi River as I travel across one of the narrowest suspension bridges in the country, which has 4 lanes and no shoulder to speak of, which means there’s absolutely no place to pull over in the event a motorist would have the occasional car problem. Driving on this bridge is sometimes nerve-wracking, especially in rush hour traffic, where cars are bumper to bumper as they cruise at 55 to 60 mph and if one is afraid of heights, open spaces or narrow places, this isn’t the bridge for you. In fact, if I’m feeling especially anxious on any given day, I may choose to take one of the other two bridges located in my area, just to avoid the rush of midday traffic.
Something I know we as motorists don’t care to think about are accidents, injury and vehicle fatalities, but I think it’s important to be prepared as best we can in the event that we are faced with a situation such as the I-35 collapse, where we must try to stay calm, think clearly and take action the best ways we know how. Nobody is perfect, things happen and disaster can strike at any time, but being prepared – even in small ways – and being aware of your surroundings can help save your life, the lives of your passengers and other motorists, as well.
With the hurricane season rapidly approaching and because so many of us - in big cities and small towns – travel across bridges which span this country every day, I thought it important to include an article on Cars for Girls which may help in the event that a vehicle you’re driving or which you are a passenger in, becomes submerged into or under water.
- 1) Try Not to Panic
- Probably easier said than done, but we all know keeping a clear head during stressful times or during events we can’t control is beneficial to making sound and rational decisions and aids in our ability to think clearly.
- 2) Be Aware
- Experts say that should a vehicle submerge in water, it will usually start to sink at a 45 degree angle. This makes sense due to the weight of the engine.
- 3) Devise a Plan Before Tragedy Strikes
- We all know the worst time to devise a plan of action is when we find ourselves stuck in the middle of a situation we simply can’t control, so it’s best to know what we can control and how to best use any options we may have.
Windows: If you’re the driver, roll down the driver side window as soon as it becomes evident that the vehicle may go under water or when it becomes apparent that water is beginning to rise quickly in a flood situation. If you have passengers, ask them to roll down their windows quickly, as well. Due to the force of water, it may become impossible for you to open the doors of your vehicle once the water begins to rise. This is why it is paramount that you get at least one window down as soon as possible. If the windows will not roll down, do whatever you can to break them; use that heavy flashlight in your glove box, a baseball bat you keep in your backseat, lay down across the front seat and kick at the window as hard as you possibly can and don’t stop until it breaks. You should know that once your vehicle is filled with water, you will be able to get the doors open, but it may take a little pushing. Hold your breath, push the door and swim to safety.
Sunroof: If you’re vehicle is equipped with a sunroof, all the better. Some sunroofs are removable, but even if you have one that isn’t, chances are it will be a lot easier to break or kick out. Since these are positioned on the roof of your vehicle, you have a little extra time to exit.
Seat Belts:Some suggest removing your seat belt just as soon as you believe your vehicle will be submerged, while others say keeping your seat belt on can save your life and keep you in your car as it is moving into the water. This is strictly your call, so use your best judgement concerning the situation. Obviously, if it’s a rapid rise or flash flooding situation, you will want to remove your seat belt and those of you passengers immediately.
Get To Higher Ground: Never drive in flooded areas, but If you find yourself caught up in a flash flooding situation and water is rising rapidly, it’s time to move to higher ground. Escape through one of the windows and climb up to the hood or roof of your vehicle to assess the situation and perhaps wait for the authorities. Time is crucial, so if at all possible, jump to safety and leave the area quickly. Never attempt to walk, or swim through high floodwater or fast moving water. Sometimes the current is so strong, you’ll be swept away before you know it; just one foot of rushing water can float a car, while two feet of rapid current can move most vehicles – including trucks and SUV’s.