Escape Tip

Escape Tip is an inherently obvious automotive safety idea. The purpose of the Escape Tip is to provide all occupants of a vehicle the means to break a side window glass if needed. This technique is suggested by every credible safety expert in the field when asked how to escape a sinking vehicle. The Escape Tip is a slight modification to the standard automotive seatbelt latchplate. If made available in all new cars, death by vehicle immersion and entrapment will be significantly reduced.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Against All Odds

  • Doug Sovern is a veteran news reporter for KCBS news radio in San Francisco. I've never met the man but I can tell you a few things about him;

    *He has grit
    *He doesn't quit
    *He's lucky to be alive

    On New Years Eve, less than a mile from home, Doug inadvertently drove his Subaru Outback into deep water and in the process, put his life in jeopardy. Like so many before him, Doug did not think the stream posed any danger. As soon as his wheels lost traction all of that changed. He immediately knew that his situation was already grave and getting worse by the minute.

    By all accounts, from this moment on, Doug Sovern did everything possible to save his own life and in the end, it was his car that ultimately gave him the tool that he needed to do just that. If not for the design of this car and access to this tool, Doug would have most likely have been the last vehicle immersion drowning victim of 2005. Instead, he is a perfect example that everything possible can go wrong in a vehicle immersion situation and a life saved can still be the result if a person only has the means to exit the vehicle.

    I'll recap Doug's story the best I can. If I miss any of the account, I'll clean it up in the days to come. Doug had just passed vehicles going the other direction when he rolled up on what appeared to be a shallow stream. Immediately upon entering the water, Doug's car sank deep in the water until the level outside was halfway up the window. Doug tried the doors but the electric locks were inoperative. He tried the electric windows but they too did not work. A sense of impending doom started to give Doug an uneasy feeling. He used his cell phone to dial 911.

    Doug got the County's automated response system which immediately put him on hold and continually reminded him that due to the high volume of calls he'd have to wait. Doug had to realize that one way or another, the wait wouldn't, or rather couldn't be long. Once the water covered his head, it would come down to how long he could hold his breath. Doug tried once more to punch and kick all of the windows in the car to facilitate his escape. All, no avail.

    Here, as Doug sat on 911 hold listening to the repeated message over and over, he sized up his position. In a cold stream a block from the fire station and about a mile from his house he came to the realization that unable to escape and with the water already at his chest, he was going to die. He simply could not accept that fact. To Doug, it seemed stupid that there was no accommodation to deal with this eventuality. Why was there not something readily available to get past the glass?

    I told you at the beginning of this post a few things about Doug Sovern. He has grit, he won't quit, and at least on this day luck was with him. When the chips were stacked against him, Doug stopped questioning why and got back to the business at hand and dealt with how. His mind, doggedly pursued an answer to his dilemma, how was he going to escape this vehicle? As a professional news reporter, he'd always been used to thinking under pressure. As the water rose, it came to him.

    Doug kept a flashlight large metal flashlight in one of the cars rear compartments. He scrambled to the rear of the vehicle only to find the compartment empty. Doug had taken the flashlight into his house during a black-out...and that is where he had left it.

    Right here, as it seemed Doug had exhausted every option in a bid to save his own life, Luck came into play. The Subaru Outback that he was driving has the vehicle's jack stowed away inside the passenger compartment. It is located near the compartment where Doug had searched for his flashlight. At this point, it was under water, but, if he could get to it, it would be a tool hard enough to break the glass and he could escape his impending date with death.

    I'm glad to report that his plan worked to perfection and Doug is still with us where he belongs. Doug is proof positive that when every system of a vehicle fails, A tool that can break glass, one that is easy to access, one that can't be misplaced, stolen or easily removed from a vehicle can be the difference between a harrowing experience and ending up another statistic.

    Haven't we been saying this all along?

An MP3 of his account

KCBS (AM), (last visited March 5, 2007).

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About Me

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Vehicle submersion accidents kill people nearly every day. I'm on a quest to make automobiles just a little safer. For the last decade, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic safety Administration) has been keeping extensive records as to the causes and outcomes of traffic accidents on this nation's roads. In that time, an average of 300 people have drowned each year trapped in their vehicles underwater. My friends and I want to change that by giving people a fighting chance to survive. I hope that you'll read more here and at the website