FLORIDA — Hurricane season is already here which can result in lots of rain and flooding. If your car crashes in the water, how do you escape? 

  • AAA provides instructions on escape tools to use if your car sinks 
  • It's important to know the glass on your vehicle in case of emergency 
  • Be prepared. Learn more methods of escaping here.

AAA tested six consumer tools designed to help drives break their car window to escape their cars in the event of a flood. Most were affective on tempered glass, however, none shattered a type of window that is becoming more common in newer vehicles.

Escape tools are intended to aid occupants in an emergency by breaking through side windows to create a way to exit the vehicle.

The majority of vehicle side windows are made from tempered glass, which shatters when broken.

But an increasing number of vehicles are being built with laminated side window glass, which is nearly impossible to break.  

In 2017, there were an estimated 21,000 crashes in which the vehicle caught fire or became partially or fully submerged, resulting in 1,800 deaths.

Based on these estimates, drivers experienced over 10 times the number of rollover crashes than those related to fire and submersion combined.

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 opposed to a spring-loaded-style, will be ineffective underwater, because it would be harder to swing.  

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:

  • Memorize the type of glass the vehicle windows are made of – tempered or laminated. If the car has at least one tempered window, this will be the best point of exit in an emergency. Also, remember – standard escape tools will not break laminated glass.
  • Keep an 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 an 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.

If trapped in a vehicle, remember there is a S-U-R-E way out: 

  • 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. 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.
  • Exit 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.

The AAA has also provided a video of someone testing a spring-loaded escape tool to cut his seat belt, break his window, and escape his sinking vehicle. Watch the video, learn more about escape tools, and more methods to keep safe here.