A series of horrendous screeching noises has disturbed your trip home from work and the next thing you know you are upside down in your vehicle. While you were smart and had your seatbelt on, there is now broken glass and debris everywhere. How will you escape? Follow these three steps for a safe extraction and save yourself.


The first thing you need to do after your car has rolled over is to remain calm and take inventory of your situation. Where are you? Are you on the edge of a cliff or in a ditch filled with water? Do you smell something that you normally don’t or shouldn’t, like fuel, fire or noxious chemicals? Can you move? Are you bleeding or otherwise injured? Does your vehicle, though overturned, feel stable?


Get your seatbelt off. The problem is that you are suspended upside down and the pressure of your body weight on the seat belt is going to make it difficult to release the buckle. You will need to use your knees and thighs to hook around the bottom of the steering wheel (which is now the top) and use that as leverage to pry your body upwards back into the seat as if you are in a normal seated position. That will take the weight off of the buckle, allowing you to release it.

Another method of releasing the seatbelt is by cutting it with either a specialty tool or a pocketknife if you have one on your person. If you need extra help in this situation because your knees and thighs aren’t enough to get yourself back into the seat, you can reach above you (or below in this case) with your arms, to the roof, and push yourself upwards in a military press motion. Keep in mind that once you release the buckle on the seatbelt, you will essentially fall onto the roof of the vehicle headfirst.

If you did not need to use your arms to press yourself back into the seat in order to release the seat belt, you will need them now to guide yourself safely onto the roof of the vehicle. Roll onto your hands and knees in order to survey your best exit. As you do this, it will be best to use the outsides of your palms and forearms to shuffle about in order to mitigate being cut and scratched.


Exit the vehicle in a way that won’t leave you exposed to any other hazards in the area that were caused by the accident, such as oncoming traffic, other vehicles that might not be stable, chemicals, fire, downed power lines, etc. With that in mind, you will probably find yourself climbing or crawling out of a window, as your doors will most likely be jammed closed. Finally, once you have made your way out of the vehicle, render aid to others as needed. Next, get a safe distance away from the scene. From there, determine whether to wait for help to arrive or to attempt to seek help yourself.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Winter 2016 edition. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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