The image of being trapped inside a vehicle that’s fallen through the ice is terribly haunting. And since ice is never one hundred percent safe, traveling in a car or truck as you cautiously drive across a body of frozen water should prompt any passenger to be ready to respond immediately in the event it happens.
The most immediate and effective first step to take is to release the seat belt. Assist others as needed and consider having an emergency strap cutter quickly accessible in case any buckles fail to release.
It’s equally important to completely open windows. This might be impossible if the car’s electrical source fails (where’s a crank window when we need it?). Opening several windows will speed exiting (and allow more water to pour in, too), but make sure at least one window is fully open to provide as large an exit opening as possible.
When multiple passengers are involved, sending an able-bodied person out first lets them get into position outside the window to assist others in escaping. Children and others who need assistance should then be sent out through the window next.
Once everyone is safely out of the vehicle, your troubles are only half over. It is vital for all ice travelers to know how to rescue themselves from an ice-breaking plunge.
One way to make the most prudent judgment calls on how safe the ice might be is to know the recommended thickness of ice needed to support a variety of typical vehicles: at least 5” for snowmobiles; to up to 12”- 15” for medium-sized trucks. These are averages and are dependent upon the structural integrity of the ice.
As always, be safe and have fun out there!
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