But your emergency auto armory isn’t complete. Although not required by law, we suggest you start packing a multi-use emergency escape tool that can shatter the window, cut your seatbelt, and signal help.
We also suggest you know how to use and store this tool because hey, you can’t beat preparation in the event of an emergency.
There are plenty of “emergency window breakers” on the market, but the company Ingear created a 3-in-1 autoXscape tool ($59.97) that works as a flashlight/window breaker/seatbelt cutter.
Why have one, small tool do it all? Because let’s say something goes terribly wrong on your cross-country road trip, you get hit by another vehicle and your car plunges into a body of water. Experts suggest you have about one minute to get out alive.
The autoXscape eliminates the need to reach for three different tools, and should be stored on the inside of your driver’s door via its vehicle mount to access with expedience.
In this scenario, your escape plan would go as such: (Much of this procedure was advised in Popular Mechanics by University of Manitoba’s Gordon Geisbrecht, who trains law enforcement officers on underwater-vehicle escape.)
Unbuckle before doing anything else (even before you try dialing 911). If your buckle is stuck, cut it with the autoXscape.
The experts at Ingear explain, “Remove the tool’s tail cap to expose the cutter. Pull the seatbelt taut with one hand. Hold it tightly. With the other hand, firmly grip the tool and press the blade’s edge (recessed in its protective housing) against the nearer edge of the seatbelt. With the seatbelt still taut, forcibly pull the blade across the belt at a diagonal angle, away from you.”
Next step in the escape procedure: Roll down the windows instead of trying to open the doors (the weight from the water pressure will be too much). Opening the door also lets in more water into the sinking car.
If you can’t roll the window down (because the electronically-controlled circuits have been fried), break the window using the pointed end of the autoXscape. But while the exterior smash point (at the tip of the tail cap) is very effective, the stronger of two glass-breakers is the stout point inside the tool’s tail cap. Firmly grasp the tool and aim the point at a corner (not the center) of a side or rear window. Forcibly strike the window’s corner, repeatedly if necessary, until it breaks.
You probably won’t be wearing gloves, so expect to cut up your hands in the process.
Geisbrecht suggests you have 30 seconds to do this until the car is submerged, and emphasized the importance of having these tools within reach to act quickly.
Once you’re out. Use the high-beam, 135 lumen flash light to signal help.
The whole point of the autoXscape is to increase your response time to an emergency. In fact, the tool came about as a response to Beijing’s record-breaking flooding in 2012. In a single weekend, 79 lives were lost to the flooding.
Meanwhile in the U.S., there have been petitions requesting that the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) require every vehicle to be equipped with at least an emergency glass breaking tool. However these pleas have failed to secure any new standards.
So instead of being reactive, spend the $60 on a wicked high quality emergency auto tool and count yourself lucky if it was $60 never used.