It’s hurricane season, and big storms can mean extra danger for drivers braving flooded roads.
In case of emergency, car and truck owners should keep escape tools, such as hammers or spring-loaded instruments designed to break windows, in a compartment close to the driver-side door. A spot like a glove box or console works, says AAA, a nonprofit auto group that provides roadside assistance.
But not all of these tools prove reliable in life or death situations, according to a new study.
The AAA report released Tuesday examined how three hammer-style and three spring-loaded tools fared in breaking both tempered and laminated glass. None of the six tools were successful in breaking the laminated glass, and four of the six tools — all of the spring-loaded and one of the hammer-style — broke the tempered glass.
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What’s the difference?
Laminated glass is most commonly used for windshields and is made by fusing two layers of tempered glass together with a plastic layer in the middle. This makes the glass more prone to bend rather than break upon impact, according to Auto Glass Fitters, a windshield repair business in 30 states.
Even when cracked, laminated glass doesn’t shatter. Tempered glass is commonly used in rear and side windows and shatters on impact.
“To improve safety, more vehicles are being equipped with laminated side windows,” John Nielsen, managing director of automotive engineering and repair for AAA, said in a release. “But a majority also have at least one window made of tempered glass.”
The number of vehicles with at least one laminated glass window has increased in recent years as new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety standards rolled out, aimed at decreasing driver ejections during high speed crashes.
In 2017, there were about 21,500 people partially or fully ejected during a crash, which resulted in over 11,000 injuries and over 5,000 deaths. About 33% of 2018 vehicle models have laminated side windows, according to the AAA study.
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Remember a SURE way out
While laminated glass can save lives during vehicle crashes, it can become life-threatening if your car catches fire or becomes submerged in water.
AAA recommends that drivers plan ahead of time by memorizing which car windows have what type of glass. Each window should have a label located at the bottom corner of the side window.
Drivers should also keep an escape tool in the car that is easily accessible, as well as plan an exit strategy ahead of time.
If trapped in a vehicle, AAA recommends that drivers do the following to ensure a safe exit from the vehicle.
But, work quickly and cautiously.
Unbuckle seat belts.
Make sure that all passengers are ready to leave the car when it’s time.
Roll down or break tempered windows.
Remember that if the vehicle is sinking, opening the windows will cause water to rush in at a faster rate.
If a window will not open or cannot be broken because it’s laminated, everyone should move to the back of the vehicle or wherever an air pocket is located. Stay there until all of the air has left the vehicle. Once this happens, the pressure should equalize, allowing occupants to open a door and escape.
Exit the vehicle quickly.
Move everyone to safety as quickly as possible before the waters completely flood the vehicle.
Call 911. While this is typically the first step in an emergency, it’s best to try and escape first if a vehicle has hit the water or is on fire.
While vehicle escape tools come in many varieties, AAA suggests avoiding tools with extra features like flashlights or chargers, since these components don’t improve the tool’s performance. Drivers should also remember that if their vehicle is fully submerged in water, a hammer-style tool will be ineffective underwater.
Follow USA Today reporter Rebekah Tuchscherer on Twitter @r2sure.