If a car runs off the road in this weather, will you help the driver out of the lake???

Posted by Andy Durham on January 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm under Uncategorized | 6 Comments to Read

I was taking the Sunday night walk/hike after shooting basketball yesterday afternoon and as the night and darkness settled in at Guilford College and the cold wind began to blow real hard, I had a thought as I passed the lake at the bottom of the hill on the Quaker campus…..

There was a golf cart coming down the hill opposite my direction toward the lake and maybe 1 or 2 cars had driven by the lake as well and that thought kept pounding in my mind and through my head…..

If a car runs off the road and into the lake, would I stop and try to help the driver get out of the car and on to safety?????

The car goes into the lake and then as a passerbyer, what would you do?????

Do you jump into the well below freezing waters of the lake or do you call for help and wait and see if the driver of the car will surface and then you can pull them out of the freezing waters?????

If you don’t see the driver or the car surfacing, at what point do you say, “I’m going for it and then jump in and try and save the stranded motorist?????

It is 10 degrees outside when you factor in the wind chill factor and there is no telling how cold that water is and even though you have never seen a car run off that road and into the lake before, today it happens and what do you do??????

When do you, or do you ever jump into the lake? Do you keep standing there and still just wait for the help to arrive and you have to figure it will be at least 10-15 minutes before they get there…..

You are the last resort. What do you do? When do you jump in???

Do you take the Polar Plunge?????

When you are walking by the lake on a very cold night, this quetion provides good fuel for thought…….


  • chuckyd said,

    andy you have been out in the cold too long you are having hallucinations go to cicis and get yourself a bowl of nice hot soup

  • Hugh said,

    It’s simple. A person of character would help out. A spineless coward would not. You are only two or three minutes away on foot from a warm place, it’s not like it’s miles from nowhere.

    Health issues are a different matter, if one has a weak heart, then no they are not a coward for not helping.

    The exact scenario you described happened on North Elm street about 7-8 years ago. Icy road, low temps, car went into lake, passerby got into the lake to help the driver ashore.

  • KC said,

    With out a doubt I would help no questions ask!

  • Andy said,

    What if the car has drifted out toward the middle of the lake and it is going down in deep water and there is no sign of the driver?

    Do you still jump in, unprepared for the cold waters and risk one life to save another?????

  • tee tee said,

    20 years ago this question was much more complicated but today everyone has a cell phone and you can at least confirm that someone or help is on the way before you take the cold dip in the lake. If this were to happen in the middle of no where with no cell reception, then I would likely try to find something to throw out to the person in need or try to archor myself to ensure a safe return. Without any backup or way to brace my safety or the person in need, then it would simply be suicide. If such a moment occurred and it was a family member, someone elses child, someone handicap, or unable to help themselves, then I probably would simply let any thoughts of “what if” go by to the side and simply take my chances without any backup.

    This is why we should always show respect for those in law enforcement, fire fighters and those in the military because they have already answered “yes’ to all of these potential situations.

  • WildManStan said,

    Well Hugh and KC would both end up dead most likely — as well as the person(s) in the car.

    First rule of first responding: If saving the person’s life will clearly endanger your own, you DON’T do it. Now, there are all sorts of caveats that people will bring up in response to this — family member, “cowardice”, etc. — but understand one thing: this is the rule by which EMTs abide. You won’t see a lone EMT jumping into an icy lake to save someone if heor she is the only one around and if he or she is thinking clearly. The only scenario in which the opposite would occur is if the EMT acknowledged to self, “I am quite prepared to die”in this instance”, and the EMT would also likely understand that, given the scenario and conditions (especially if the car was fully submerged), death was a near-certainty for both self and victim. We attach unfair sacrificial warrior status to first responders — they AINT gonna jump in after you unless there is a clear exit strategy. Tee Tee has a beter understanding of this.

    Second problem — and the reason we’ll be fishing Hugh and KC out of the water. If, in the scenario described, we are talking about water that is near freezing in temperature, during the first 1-3 minutes in the water your body will go into “cold shock”, where all you will do is hyperventilate and flail around basically. If your head goes under ONCE during that time, you most likely will swallow a ton of water and drown on the spot. (If for some reason you ever decide to jump into a near-frozen lake, you’d better understand this.) Even after the initial 1-3 minutes, you still have problems. You’d better be quick about what you do: water takes away body heat at a rate 25 times that of air. You may — repeat MAY — have one opportunity to go under to make the save, but more than likely you will be repelled by the numbing pain within a few seconds. On top of that, the reality is that you have a total of about 8-9 minutes to get yourself out of the water before you become too weak to move.

    Interestingly hypothermia, while a quick immobilizer, is a very slow killer — there are many stories of people who have survived up to an hour or more after being in the water with a life preserver on, thus not going under and drowning, or falling through ice and getting their arms above the ice, laid out flat where they will then freeze to the ice, keeping the person’s head above water. Sometimes, even beards have frozen to the ice, keeping someone’s head up.