In the case of an accident, getting out of your car is important but things sometimes act against that: seat belts can jam, doors can be damaged to the point where they no longer open, and you can sometimes be pinned by parts of the car itself. In cases like these, there are tools and tricks that prove invaluable in extricating yourself and others from a hazard.
Seatbelts are tough and strong. They're designed to hold incredible amounts of force while not abrading or wearing for years at a time. If your belt is jammed and won't release, you'll need to cut yourself free.
- Your cutter needs to be very sharp to do this, and serrated blades cut better than smooth ones in this regard. (Some very sharp shears also cut belt material well, but most really just chew at it.)
- Make your cut diagonally across the belt. The nature of the weave used in a seat belt makes the material weakest in this direction,
- Once cut, a simple pull should free the belt from your body and allow you to move.
If your doors are stuck shut, or otherwise can't be used to exit the vehicle, going out through the glass is always an option. There are a few things that make this far safer and easier.
- Don't try the windshield. Side and rear car windows are tempered glass, which shatters cleanly and easily, but the windshield is laminated glass and almost impossible to shatter. If you go this route, you'll have to break all along the edges of your windshield, then push it out. It can be done, but it really is the worst case scenario.
- Use a sharp pointed object to shatter the glass. It doesn't take a whole lot of force to shatter windows, but you need to concentrate it all into one point.
- Cover your eyes and face as you break the window. Tempered glass breaks somewhat explosively into small fragments, and they will get into your eyes and otherwise cut you.
- If possible, wear a glove or cover your hand with something. The odds of your hand going through the remnants of the window are quite high.
- Clean the opening as best you can after the break, then (if possible) cover the bottom edge to protect you from cuts as you slide out.
- If you're trapped by parts of the vehicle itself, you're going to need professional help and specialized tools. Call 911, treat any injuries that you can, and otherwise keep yourself warm, safe, and alive until help arrives. It's all you can do, so do it well.
ToolsThere are many specialty tools marketed to help you escape a car. Most are knives with spikes on the pommel or hammers with a spike point and a blade. Both of these work well, but require space and strength to apply enough force to break the glass; if you have to use your off-hand or are otherwise injured, this may not be possible.
However, something like the ResQMe escape tool eliminate that requirement. The blade is concealed safely in the handle, and the window-breaker is spring-loaded, requiring almost no force to use; it reminds me of the center punch dad used for two decades as a firefighter to do the same task. I'm ordering one for each of my own vehicles, and will post a proper review when they arrive, but their videos give me confidence in their efficiency.