News article

More than 50 people, on average, die every year in a submerged vehicle crash

In the Netherlands, on average, more than 50 people die every year in a submerged vehicle crash. More than two thirds die from drowning. The casualties are mainly car occupants, while cyclist and mobility scooter fatalities are also numerous. Casualties are mostly male and aged 18-24. This can be read in the SWOV fact sheet Submerged vehicle crashes.

Despite the large number of casualties, not much is known about possible causes of crashes in which vehicles end up in the water. Foreign studies show that alcohol and drug use, and/or speeding are often involved.

There are two ways to prevent fatalities in submerged vehicle crashes. Firstly, by preventing vehicles from ending up in the water at all; for example by means of barriers along open water. Secondly by having occupants leave their submerged cars as soon as possible. Public service advertising may increase knowledge about escape strategies. However, it is uncertain whether, in stressful situations, people will practise what was taught and whether they will not automatically act instinctively. Electric car windows that open automatically upon contact with water may be effective in increasing chances of survival for the car occupants.


Transport mode, Bicycle, Powered two-wheeler, Passenger car, Other modes of traffic, Risks, Infrastructure, Human behaviour in traffic