Auto Glass Retailers Tackle Safety and How to Escape Submerged Vehicle
June 24, 2013

by Jenna Reed,

An emergency glass breaking tool.

A woman recently died when her minivan jumped a curb, landed in the San Francisco Bay and sank. According to a local report, first responders were "unable to break the glass completely in time."

While local authorities have yet to determine the cause of the woman's death, according to the report, an estimated 400 people die each year because they are trapped in submerged cars. One way to help escape through a sidelite in the event of vehicle submersion is by an emergency glass breaking tool that most automotive supply stores sell, according to Frank Levesque, director of development and technical services at Glass Doctor University.The tool is designed to break out the sidelite and cut the seatbelt, he adds. The cost is about $8.

Brad Voreis, vice president of operations at Glass Doctor, noted that Myth Busters did an episode on breaking vehicle glass in the event of a submersion.

"You can open a window in a submerged car by attempting to break the window using a window-breaking hammer. The device is designed with a pointed tip designed to shatter tempered glass. The hammer breaks the window on the first try," the show's hosts discovered.

The episode also found, "You can open a window in a submerged car by attempting to break the window using a spring-loaded center punch. The point of the punch can work like the tip of the hammer and punches are sold for the purpose of breaking window glass. The punch breaks the window on the first try."

Bob Beranek of Auto Glass Consultants in Sun Prairie, Wis., adds, "The weakest point of tempered glass is the edge. A metal tool chipping the edge would break the glass the easiest. Of course, there are special 'escape' tools for automotive use but the one I carry in my car is a spring loaded center pinch. Just push on the punch and it breaks the glass easily."

Another way the auto glass repair and replacement industry can help with this topic is to educate local fire and rescue personnel on the glass in vehicles, according to Kerry Soat of Fas-Break, in Chandler, Ariz.

"I, for one, would like to make a recommendation that glass shops offer classes to our fire and rescue departments as to the types of windows in vehicles," he says. "Knowledge of the type of windows in each vehicle would be valuable in a situation like this one. Just knowing the difference and structure of safety glass versus tempered could be huge."

In the local report, the woman's minivan jumped a curb and landed in about 25-feet of water.

"It was going down at the nose, the roof was just submerging when we got to it and before we even slowed down, three of our guys were in the water with tools and they were able to get on the car and started smashing the window, but unfortunately we couldn't get the window to break completely," says rescuer Ian Andrew in the report.

The report goes on to offer some advice if someone finds themselves trapped in a car underwater: "An estimated 400 people die each year because their cars are trapped in water. Most of the victims wait or call 911 expecting help. Safety experts say don't wait: unbuckle your seatbelts, get the window open and get all the way out of the car before it sinks.

"And because the back windows on some cars don't roll all the way down, passengers should head through the front ones," the report continues. "An inexpensive window break tool can punch out the glass before water fills the inside of your car. Experts warn the first 30 to 60 seconds are key to trying to get out of the car."

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