You likely know what type of gasoline your car takes and what stations you have saved on your car radio, but do you know which type of side window glass your car has?

AAA research recently determined that tools designed to help you break a window and escape a crash are unable to break laminated side windows—an innovation that about a third of 2018 models use. The research demonstrates the importance of knowing which type of side window glass your vehicle has and keeping a car escape tool handy.

How to know your type of glass

Most vehicle side windows are made from tempered glass, which shatters into small pieces when broken. But an increasing number of vehicles come with laminated side window glass—the same type used in windshields—which is stronger, quieter and much more difficult to break. Laminated glass is becoming more common to help prevent people from being ejected in high-speed collisions, which occur much more frequently than vehicles catching fire or becoming submerged in water.

You can determine the type of glass on your vehicle by checking a label in the bottom corner of your side windows—it should clearly indicate whether the glass is tempered or laminated. If you can’t find the label or this info isn’t included, contact your vehicle manufacturer. AAA has also compiled a list of vehicles with laminated glass.

Keep in mind that your car may have different types of glass in different locations (such as tempered glass on rear side windows and laminated glass on front side windows). If your car has at least one tempered window, this is the best point of exit in an emergency.

What to know when looking for a car escape tool

Vehicle escape tools can help you exit your vehicle in an emergency by breaking through side windows and cutting through safety belts.

Testing done by AAA determined that spring-loaded tools are more effective in breaking tempered windows than hammer-style ones (which are harder to swing underwater). When you purchase a car escape tool, avoid one with extra features such as lights or chargers because these don’t improve the tool’s effectiveness.

Make sure your car escape tool is working properly by testing it ahead of time on a piece of soft wood. The tool works if the tip of the tool impacts the surface of the wood, leaving a small indent.

Your escape tool should be kept where it is secure and within reach following a collision.

Know an escape plan

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

  • Stay calm and work cautiously to ensure everyone safely exits the vehicle.
  • Unbuckle safety belts and check to see that everyone is ready to leave the car when it’s time.
  • Roll down or break a window. Roll down a window as soon as the vehicle enters the water. If the window won’t open and the car has tempered glass, use a car escape tool to break a side window. If a window won’t open or cannot be broken, call 911 immediately.
  • Exit the vehicle quickly, move everyone to safety and call 911.

Know Your Glass

AAA has compiled a list of vehicles with laminated glass.

Keep reading in: