AAA research report finds car escape tools effective in breaking tempered windows, not laminated
The idea of being trapped anywhere can cause a rush of panic and anxiety. But, imagine being trapped in a car that is either upside down or sinking in water. A scenario like this is unthinkable. Luckily, these types of accidents are rare – in 2017 there were an estimated 8,000 crashes where a vehicle became partially or fully submerged – in comparison, motorists experienced rollover crashes more than 10 times more frequently. The key to surviving an event like this, or any emergency, is to remain calm, have a plan in place and keep a car escape tool in the vehicle at all times.
To help consumers make an educated decision when purchasing a car escape tool, AAA examined six tools to determine how effective they are in breaking tempered and laminated glass. During testing, AAA researchers found that only four of the tools were able to shatter the tempered glass and none were able to break the laminated glass, which stayed intact even after being cracked. During multiple rounds of testing, it was also discovered that the spring-loaded tools were more successful in breaking tempered windows than the hammer-style.
AAA's study shows the importance of keeping an escape tool on hand, but it also demonstrates how critical it is for drivers to know what type of side window glass is on their vehicle – tempered or laminated. Motorists may not realize it, but an increasing number of new cars – in fact, 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.
"To improve safety, more cars have 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."
Finding out what type of glass side windows are made of is easy. Drivers should check 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 (e.g., tempered glass on rear side windows versus laminated on front side windows).
Being prepared in an emergency can greatly improve the chances of survival, especially if drivers and their passengers have become trapped in the vehicle. AAA strongly recommends drivers do the following:
Prepare ahead of time:
If trapped in a vehicle, remember there is a S-U-R-E way out:
"Knowledge is power and the more drivers understand about their car – like what type of glass their side windows are made of – the better prepared they will be in the event of an emergency," added Nielsen.
For a full list of vehicles with laminated side windows, please click here.