AAA recently reviewed an array of vehicle escape tools to determine which is most effective in quickly breaking passengers out of their cars. The study found that most escape tools will break tempered side windows, but none of the tools reviewed were able to break laminated glass – which is becoming more popular in newer vehicles.
Of the six tools studied, three were spring-loaded and three were hammer style. The spring-loaded tools were determined to be the most effective in breaking tempered windows than the hammer-style, though none of the tools were able to break the laminated windows.
To improve safety, more vehicles are being equipped with the difficult to penetrate laminated side windows (about 1 in 3 2018 models have them). This is in an effort to reduce the number of passengers ejected from a vehicle in the event of a crash. 21,400 people were thrown from their vehicle in a crash in 2017, resulting in 11,200 injuries and 5,052 deaths – which makes a stronger glass window a greater need than a window that is easy to break. But for those times when a vehicle catches fire or is submerged in water, AAA wants passengers to be able to escape – no matter the window type.
The good news is that almost all vehicles that are equipped with laminated side windows will also have at least one window made of tempered glass (easier to break). For that reason, it is important that drivers and passengers know which type of windows they have, and which window is tempered glass in case of emergency.
Drivers can determine the type of glass installed on their vehicle by first checking for a label located in the bottom corner of the side window, which should clearly indicate whether the glass is tempered or laminated. If this information is not included or there is no label at all, AAA advises contacting the vehicle manufacturer. It is also important to note that some vehicles are outfitted with different glass at varying locations in the car (i.e. tempered glass on rear side windows versus laminated on front side windows).
Vehicle escape tools come in many varieties, but AAA suggests avoiding tools with extra features such as lights or chargers since these functions do not improve the performance of the tool itself. Drivers should also remember that in the event their vehicle is submerged, a hammer-style escape tool (as opposed to a spring-loaded-style) will be ineffective underwater.
Prepare ahead of time:
- Memorize the type of glass the vehicle windows are made of – tempered or laminated. If the car has at least one tempered window, this will be the best point of exit in an emergency. Also, remember – standard escape tools will not break laminated glass.
- Keep an escape tool in the car that the driver is comfortable using, has previously tested and is easy to access following a collision. To make sure a vehicle escape tool is working properly, test it ahead of time on a softer surface such as a piece of soft wood. The tool works if the tip impacts the surface, leaving a small indent in the material.
- Plan an exit strategy in advance and communicate it to everyone in the car. This will help avoid confusion in an emergency, which could increase the time it takes to exit the vehicle. Also, have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work.
If trapped in a vehicle, remember there is a S-U-R-E way out:
- Stay calm. While time is of the essence – work cautiously to ensure everyone safely exits the vehicle.
- Unbuckle seat belts and check to see that everyone is ready to leave the car when it’s time.
- Roll down or break a window – remember if the car is sinking in water, once the window is open the water will rush into the car at a faster rate. If the window will not open and the car has tempered glass, use an escape tool to break a side window to escape. Drivers should also remember that:
- If a window will not open or cannot be broken because it is laminated, everyone should move to the back of the vehicle or wherever an air pocket is located. Stay with it until all of the air has left the vehicle. Once this happens, the pressure should equalize, allowing occupants to open a door and escape.
- If the vehicle is submerged, a hammer-style escape tool (as opposed to a spring-loaded-style) could be much harder to swing underwater.
- Exit the vehicle quickly and move everyone to safety.