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Research finds vehicle escape tools effective in breaking windows, AAA says

Posted: 2:16 PM, Jul 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-17 08:26:46-04
Car break-in

TAMPA, Fla. — New research from AAA says most vehicle escape tools intended to quickly aid passengers trapped in a car following an accident will break tempered side windows, but none were able to penetrate laminated glass.

The organization says 1 in 3 2018 vehicle models have laminated side windows, a nearly unbreakable glass meant to lessen the chance of occupant ejection during a collision.

AAA advises drivers to have a secure and easily accessible escape tool in their car and a backup plan in case the escape tool cannot be used or doesn't work.

“To improve safety, more vehicles are being equipped with laminated side windows – but a majority also have at least one window made of tempered glass,” said John Nielsen, managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair for AAA. “Our research found that generally vehicle escape tools can be effective in an emergency, but only if drivers know what type of side windows they have, otherwise they could waste precious seconds trying to break glass that will not shatter.”

In order to prepare ahead of time for emergencies, AAA offers the following tips:

  • 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. You can find a list of vehicles with laminated glass by clicking here.
  • 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, AAA recommends the 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.
  • Call 911 – while this is typically the first step in an emergency, if a vehicle has hit the water or is on fire, it is best to try to escape first.

For more on AAA's research and how to protect yourself, click here.