Emergency calling for a vehicle escape? AAA’s tools and tips to get you out safely

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Getting out of your car in a hurry—it’s not something you often think about, but if you’re in a situation where you need to escape before help arrives you need a tool to help you do that. 

But, vehicle escape tools may only be effective in certain circumstances.

A recent study by AAA found most escape tools will work well to break tempered glass windows, but a lot of carmakers are moving away from them and into laminated 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.

Tempered glass shatters pretty easily under pressure using a common window punch or other sharp edged tool made to break glass.

First responders say, that self-extrication may save your life.

“If you’re in a rollover incident where you can’t get the door open or its on fire or submerging into water—there will be times when you have to self-rescue as quick as you can,” said Durham fire Captain Sean Boone who works on one of that department’s rescue units.

But, tempered glass windows are being replaced with laminated windows. 

“The reason they went to laminated glass is that people weren’t wearing their seat belts and were being ejected,” said Captain Boone.

He says his department responds to a lot of car crashes that require window removal.

“It’s pretty often actually,’’ said Boone.

But, breaking those windows is getting tougher because of laminated glass. 

“A lot of cars have it now,” said Boone. “1 in 3 are starting to have it—so it’s going that way.”

Laminated glass is essentially a piece of plastic between two layers of glass.

How do you know what kind of glass is in your automobile? 

There’s an easy way to tell.

Check the sticker located on the corner of the glass. It will tell whether it’s tempered or laminated.

Once, firefighters used an axe to break windows. Now, they use a special tool that includes a serrated edge like a saw

Boone says laminated glass has an inner lining which makes it solid, requiring the saw-like tool to cut through it.

Even though laminated glass is becoming more common, Triple AAA’s  Tiffany Wright says “almost all vehicles that are equipped with laminated side windows will also have at least one window made of tempered glass, which is easier to break.”

Wright says, “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.”

Having the tool to help get you out is only part of what you need to do.

You also have to plan your exit strategy in advance.

AAA says, if  you are trapped in a vehicle, remember the acronym: 

S-U-R-E

  • 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.
  • Exit the vehicle quickly and move everyone to safety.

Don’t wait for an emergency to figure out how to get it done. This video can help you know what to do and how to do it before you get into trouble.

Keep your 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 your 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.

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