Some car escape tools better than others — but window material plays role too, says AAA

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EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A vehicle escape tool, designed to free your seat belt and break a window to leave the car’s cage, can be a lifesaver—but some tools won’t work on certain windows, according to new research from AAA.

Most of them, whether they’re styled like a hammer or have a spring-loaded impact, will break tempered side windows, AAA found.

But laminated glass could not be broken in their testing.

More new cars—1 in 3 vehicles in the 2018 model year, AAA said—have laminated side windows, intended to reduce the possibility of a rider being ejected during a collision.

AAA testers looked at six tools, three spring-loaded and three hammer style, and only four of the six were able to shatter the tempered glass. None were able to break the laminated glass.

It’s crucial, according to AAA Northeast’s John Paul, the organization’s senior manager of traffic safety, for drivers to know if their vehicles have tempered or laminated glass.

The bottom corner of side windows should clearly indicate if they’re tempered or laminated. Contact your vehicle manufacturer if it doesn’t, AAA indicated in a news release Tuesday.

Some vehicles also have different types of glass at varying locations—for example, tempered on rear side windows, but laminated on front side windows.

Crashes involving a person partially or fully ejected are more prevalent but if a vehicle catches fire or becomes submerged, drivers and passengers may be forced to get out of the vehicle through a side window.

Furthermore, if the vehicle is submerged, a hammer-style escape tool will be ineffective underwater compared to a spring-loaded style, Paul said, since it’ll be difficult to swing through water.

The organization suggests these tips for what they call a “SURE” way out:

S – Stay calm. While time is of the essence, work cautiously to ensure everyone safely exits the vehicle.

U – Unbuckle seat belts and check to see if everyone is ready to leave the car when it’s time.

R – Roll down, or break a window.

If the car is sinking in water, once the window is open, water will rush into the car at a faster rate. If the window will not open and has tempered glass, use an escape tool to break a side window to escape.

If a window can’t open, everyone needs to move to the back of the vehicle, or wherever an air pocket is located, and stay there until all the air has left the vehicle. When that happens, the pressure should equalize, allowing you to open a door and escape.

E – Exit the vehicle quickly and move everyone to safety.

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