If you ever need to escape your car, a AAA study on vehicle escape tools reveals which way works best – and you may be surprised to learn that the specific type of glass in your vehicle plays a large role in your ability to exit safely.  

In its latest study, AAA tested a random variety of vehicle escape tools – designed to aid passengers during a road emergency where they’re unable to exit their vehicles normally – to determine their effectiveness in breaking tempered and laminated vehicle side windows. 

AAA tested six tools (three spring-loaded and three hammer-style) and found four shattered the tempered glass, while zero were able to break the laminated glass. 


Identify the type of

glass in your vehicle 

Labels that are located on the bottom corner of vehicle side windows should state if the glass is tempered or laminated. If there are no labels, AAA advises contacting the vehicle manufacturer. The type of glass may vary throughout the vehicle.  

Being prepared in an emergency will greatly improve your ability to stay safe. AAA strongly recommends drivers do the following:  


Memorize the type of glass your vehicle windows are made of (tempered or laminated). Only tempered glass can be broken with standard escape tools.  

Store the escape tool in a safe, accessible place. Ensure it works properly by testing it ahead of time on a softer surface such as a piece of soft wood. The tool works if the tip strikes the surface and leaves a small indent in the material.  

Plan an exit strategy with everyone in the car. Also, have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work. 


use the 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. 

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.  

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.