These tips could help save your life if you're stuck in a submerged vehicle

Study shows that car windows are getting increasingly hard to shatter

ORLANDO, Fla. – Anything can happen on the road, which is why the American Automobile Association (AAA) tested a selection of six vehicle escape tools on their effectiveness in assisting drivers break through car door windows, particularly in the event that the vehicle is submerged in a body of water. 

In a recent study, AAA determined that out of their selection of six tools available to consumers, only four were able to shatter through tempered glass, which is commonly used for vehicle side windows. 

Of the six tools selected, three of them were spring-loaded and the other three were hammer style. The study found that spring-loaded tools were more effective in shattering tempered windows than hammer-style.

None of the six tools were able to break laminated glass, which stayed intact even after being cracked.

According to AAA, an increasing number of vehicles are being built with laminated window glass, which is almost impossible to break. 

“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,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said. 

AAA encourages drivers to know what kind of side window glass is installed in their vehicles, keep an escape tool accessible in the car and have a backup plan in case the tool does not work. 

“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,” Jenkins said. 

Click here to view a list of vehicles equipped with laminated side windows. 

AAA notes that drivers can determine the type of glass on their vehicles by checking for a label located in the bottom corner of the side window, indicating whether the glass in tempered or laminated. If there is no label, the association recommends contacting the vehicle manufacturer.

Although there's a wide selection, AAA suggests avoiding vehicle escape tools with extra features such as lights or chargers since they do not improve the effectiveness of the tool. 

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 harder to swing under underwater and therefore ineffective. 

If trapped in a vehicle, AAA urges drivers to remember that there is a S-U-R-E way out:

  • S tay calm. While time is of the essence, work cautiously to ensure everyone safely exits the vehicle.
  • U nbuckle seat belts and check to see that everyone is ready to leave the car when it’s time.
  • R oll 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.
  • E xit 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 AAA's testing methodology, refer to the full report by clicking here.