According to Ask.com the average American spends about 600 hours a year in their car. That would be about the equivalent of 5 years of the average lifespan. Yahoo.com reports that statistics would indicate the average person is involved in 3 motor vehicle accidents over their lifetime. There are too many variables to predict how many times in your life you will be stranded along the road somewhere (i.e., breakdowns, bad weather, flat tires, etc.)
Aside from the basic repair tools you may need from time-to-time, another critical item that you should always have on hand is a car escape tool. You can never tell when you might need one. Maybe it’s not even you that needs it. Maybe you happen across some poor soul who needs you to help them escape from their own vehicle because they are trapped in rising water. Better to be ready for it when that unfortunate incident comes.
What is a car escape tool?
Other than mangled metal, the two things that most frequently trap people in their cars are jammed seat belt latches and hard to break safety glass. By their very nature seat belts are made to stay latched and safety glass is designed to not break easily. A car escape tool offsets both potential problems.
There are two basic types of car escape tools. One type is similar with the Swiss knife, in that it comes with a variety of different tools despite its small size. The other type is a very basic escape tool. Both types include an auto glass breaker and seat belt cutter. The major differ “Swiss knife” type also includes various other tools in addition to the basic safety glass hammer and seat belt cutter.
What tools does it contain?
The basic car escape tool contains an emergency escape hammer and a seatbelt cutter, and that’s about it. It is small enough to fit in the glove box, tool box, purse or even a pocket. It is usually a bright color, like hunter orange, so that it is easy to find. Some are even small enough to fit on the end of your key chain.
A good “Swiss knife” type car escape tool contains the following:
Seat Belt Cutter: Since the primary purpose of a seat belt is to protect the driver from getting injured should his/her car crash into something, it is expected that the seat belt will be made of sturdy material. However, if your seat belt is making it difficult for you to get out of the car, then a seat belt cutter is what you need. It is specifically designed to easily cut through the material that seat belts were made of, making it easier for you to make a quick exit when necessary.
Emergency Escape Hammer: The car escape hammer can be used in times that you need to get out quickly, but can’t do so because the door or its locks were broken or jammed. It has spikes that can easily break window safety glass. Remember though, the escape hammer is primarily used for breaking the glass of your car door. Since most windshields are reinforced (and sometimes doubled), they can withstand a larger amount of force and is harder to break.
Tire Pressure Gauge: Running your tires above or below the optimal pressure while driving can cause accidents, especially if you’re traveling at high speeds. The tire pressure gauge enables you to check the air pressure in your tires, anytime and in any place, without the hassle of looking for a service station. (It is also recommended that you have an air pump in your emergency car kit – but that’s for another article)
Bright LED Flashlight: If ever your car breaks down while driving in the middle of the night, the built-in flashlight in your escape tool will make sure that you will have enough light while making repairs. It comes in handy when looking for something that feel under the seat.
Small Pliers and Screwdriver: If you find it difficult to locate the small tools in your tool box or glove compartment, your car escape tool will save you from the trouble of digging through everything just to find them. These light duty tools can fit perfectly into small places that need tightening or holding.
Other Multitools: There are many “Swiss Army” type car escape tools on the market and the array of multitools can vary quite a bit from one to the other. Some have even more tools than have been mentioned here. Be sure to research the tool as well as the company before making your decision. Any tool is only as good as the people who stand behind it.
Which type is best?
Both types of car escape tool have their advantages and disadvantages. The best things about the basic tool is its simplicity, small size, and bright color so it is easy to use, store, and locate when you need it. The disadvantages are the first two things in certain contexts; perhaps a little more size and weight would make the hammer more effective, or maybe a few other multitools would also come in handy from time-to-time.
The major advantages of the “Swiss knife” type car escape tool is, of course, the diversity of tools that come with it, the heavier weight, the flashlights, tire gauge, etc. It is also good to have uses for the tool other than during an emergency – the more reasons you have to use it, the more likely you are to remember where you put it as compared to a tool you NEVER use. The disadvantages may include batteries running out, moving pieces getting jammed, and the tool being too large for certain jobs, such as checking the air in your bike tires.
Nobody wants to be injured or be a victim of an accident. Therefore, even though we all hope for the best, you need to always plan for the worst that you might experience and prepare for that. While frequently they can be very helpful, never rely on strangers to be there when you need them or to help you in times of need; it is always be better to be prepared and rely on yourself for knowing what to do and having the tools to do it.
Don Carter is Co-founder and CEO of DTC LifeTools which is a family-owned company that provides emergency preparedness resources, tools, and education. DTC LifeTools is known for their unique car escape tool, solar emergency lights, tire pressure gauge, emergency crank radio, and quality customer service. A masters-level psychotherapist, Don also maintains an emergency preparedness blog to help people prepare for many types of disasters and emergencies.