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The Knack

How To Escape From A Moving Car

By Mr Adam Kirley – stuntman for Kingsman and one-time body double for Mr Daniel Craig

At 17 I ran away to the circus, which sounds like a cliché but it’s true. I worked on a travelling stunts show as a human cannon, and with monster trucks. Then I got qualified on the British Stunt Register and started working in film and television. My big break (no pun intended) was on Casino Royale as Daniel Craig’s stunt double – I did the famous crane jumping scene, and the Aston Martin crash.

I’ve had 16 years’ experience doing stunts such as this, and have had to use my skills in real-life situations. I was once riding my mountain bike pretty fast down a hill and a car pulled out. I put my brakes on, slid on my front wheel and hit the back of the vehicle. I managed to jump off the bike and land on my feet on his roof. My bike ended up smashing through his back window.

Obviously the best way to survive these situations is to avoid them completely, but you might one day find yourself in a car that experiences a brake failure. Or be in the back of a dodgy cab where you think, Sweet Jesus, I may never see my loved ones again. A quick calculation reveals that an unconventional exit is your best option. How to do it?

If I were in a runaway taxi, I’d probably try to throw the taxi driver out, but if you absolutely have to make an exit try your hardest to slow down the vehicle. Slamming on the handbrake is a bad move – it will cause the car to slide and increase the risk of you getting run over when you disembark. Distract the driver to slow his speed, and make your move when he least expects it.

We stuntmen always carry around a pad bag – it’s somewhat essential in our line of work. Improvise with any detritus or discarded newspapers to make some elbow, hip and knee protectors. Stuffing some magazines down your trousers might feel odd but it’s going to help when you hit the unforgiving tarmac.

Wind down the window if you can and have a look to see if there’s any traffic or obstacles to avoid. Assess how fast you’re going – you’ll instinctively know if the speed is suitable or not. To get away with this in normal clothing, you’re probably looking at a maximum speed of 30 or 35mph. It’s important to escape when the driver is taking a bend. Let’s say you’re on the left-hand side of the car – if you make your exit when he’s taking a right hand turn, the inertia will take you clear of the car and help you roll away.

You want to leave the car in as low and straight a position as possible, with the impact dispersed across the whole of your body. Get on all fours in the foot well facing the door. Everyone’s first instinct is to put their hands or legs down first. That’s the worst thing you can do: you will break something. The pointy parts of your body hurt – elbows, knees, hips, ankles. Put your fists under your chin, and bring your elbows together. Keep your chin tucked in to your chest to protect your head. The best point of impact is the back of the shoulder and your back. If you dive out directly onto your shoulder you’ll break it.

If the door is locked, smash the window and try to open it from the outside. Or make your escape out of the window (like a luge champion). Otherwise, open the door and, as you leave, push out just enough to clear the car. You need to exit with your back facing the direction you’re travelling. Jump out with your right shoulder (remember, we’re on the left-hand side of the car) closest to the ground, and roll over your left shoulder. Once you hit the ground, the longer the time you can spend rolling over the biggest possible area of your body, the better: the key thing is to disperse the energy over time and surface area. Once you’re spinning and rolling, there’ll be a lot of centrifugal force so keep your body tense, prevent your limbs from flailing about, and go with the roll. Once safe, with just a few cuts and bruises (hopefully), you can dust yourself off and hail another cab.

Some Common Mistakes

Being hasty

Jumping out of the door before checking is a bad idea – you don’t want to encounter objects that are going to win in a fight.

Landing on your feet

You might get away with this, but trying to land on your feet will likely result in your legs breaking, being whipped out from beneath you, causing you to hit your head.

Putting your hands out

Again, it’s instinctive when you fall to stick out your hands out. Everyone does this even if they slip on ice. You’ll break your wrists.

Not tucking in

Not protecting your head and keeping your neck muscles tense will result in your head taking the brunt of the impact. Not good.

Rolling wrong

Because you’re exiting on a bend, you’ll be rolling away from the car’s turn. Sometimes, people get confused and try to roll against the natural inertia. This is going to hurt, and won’t dissipate the energy effectively.