HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – As you hit the road this summer, you might want to check your car windows. A new report by the American Automobile Association says knowing the type of windows you have could save your life.
There are two main types of glass in a car: laminated and tempered glass.
AAA says due to a revision in the federal motor vehicle safety standards, an increasing number of late-model vehicles are now equipped with side windows made out of laminated glass, a stronger material that is more commonly used in windshields.
But unlike the tempered glass normally used for side windows and designed to break under certain conditions, AAA says its tests show laminated glass is nearly impossible to break.
That’s a concern, AAA says, because if drivers and passengers can’t smash out a window in an emergency, they could become trapped in their cars, which would be especially dangerous if the vehicle were fully or partially submerged or on fire.
In 2017, that scenario took place in nearly 21,000 crashes, resulting in 1,800 deaths, AAA says.
Laminated glass is made by inserting clear plastic panels between panes of glass during the manufacturing process. AAA says it offers a quieter ride, more protection against theft and vandalism, and a greater chance of keeping people in the vehicle cockpit after a rollover, but because it’s harder to break into a vehicle with laminated glass, it’s also harder to break out.
“Good Morning America” teamed up with Indiana State Police to show the difference between the two glasses. They used two popular rescue tools, the resqme and the Lifehammer, and attempted to break windows made of tempered glass and laminated glass.
“Good Morning America” and police first tried a car with tempered glass and used the resqme tool on the front driver’s side window and the Lifehammer on the front passenger window. With both tools, the glass instantly shattered into little pieces when struck, just as it’s intended, enabling an easy escape.
The test on laminated glass was a different story. Neither tool was able to shatter the windows despite repeated blows.
Manufacturers of the tools acknowledge that they will not work on laminated glass and are intended only for use on tempered glass.
“A rollover accident is far more likely to occur than one that involves water or a fire, so it makes sense to upgrade to the stronger material in many cases,” AAA spokesman Matthew Conde said. “But it’s an awareness thing. Vehicle owners need to know what kind of glass they have in order to do the right thing in different situations.”
Even if your car has laminated glass in the front side windows, many times the back passenger and rear windows have tempered glass where the escape devices will work.
Glass specifications can be found in the bottom corner of the side window, where the word “TEMPERED” or “LAMINATED” will appear. In an emergency, it’s important to focus primarily on breaking any tempered glass in the vehicle, AAA says.
If the window does not have a label, you can check a list prepared by AAA which states whether the car was produced with laminated windows. You can also reach out to your manufacturer to find out what is in your car.
Experts say it’s also important to remember that if you find yourself in an emergency situation before you even try breaking a window, unbuckle your seat belt and try to roll the window down to escape.
If a vehicle is submerged in water and the windows can’t be opened, safety officials recommend moving to an air pocket until all air has left the vehicle. Once that happens, the pressure should equalize, allowing occupants to open a door and escape.