Car headrests not designed as glass-breakers

FactCheck October 31, 2019

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from September 6, 2016 which claims the headrest of car seats is specifically designed so that it could be used to break the glass of a car window to allow escape in an emergency. 

A Facebook post from September 6, 2016 claims a car headrest is designed to break car glass in an emergency.

The text features a headline that reads ÔÇ£I never knew thisÔÇØ, followed by a statement that reads: ÔÇ£The headrest of car seats is deliberately kept detachable and sharp so that it could be used to break open the glass of the car in case of fire and emergency. The car’s glass too are kept easily breakable from inside. Very few people know about it and thus can’t save themselves in case of emergencies. Please share it with as many possible (sic) and educate.ÔÇØ

The post, which features a photo of a headrest inside a car, has been shared more than 56,000 times and has attracted 36 reactions and two comments. 

The Analysis

Head restraints are a regulatory requirement under Australian Design Rules for vehicle standards. 

The claim about headrest design being to aid glass-breaking was circulated on Facebook in April 2016, with US fact checking organisation Snopes examining it and finding that ÔÇ£car headrests were not designed to serve this functionÔÇØ.

Experts say car glass is not designed to be broken easily and can be harder to break if laminated or tinted.

Snopes traces the claim back to a 2012 Japanese game show which features a woman using a headrest to break a driver’s window from inside a car by wedging it between the glass and the window sill .

According to the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP Safety), the purpose of the head restraint is to prevent hyper-extension of the neck in a crash, with newer designs optimised to reduce the risk of whiplash injuries in rear-end crashes. 

Regarding the design of automotive glass, an ANCAP Safety spokesperson told AAP FactCheck that in the United States, it is now ÔÇ£effectively mandatory for vehicles to have laminated glass to prevent ejection in crashes – meaning the glass can’t be broken as a means of egressÔÇØ.

However this standard has not yet been adopted in Australia. 

A spokesperson for motoring organisation the NRMA told AAP FactCheck that headrests were not designed to be able to break the glass from inside a car.

ÔÇ£Car headrests are too difficult to hold onto, you’d need to get a good swing on them and a headrest is going to fall out of your hands so they’re not designed for that,ÔÇØ the spokesperson said.

ÔÇ£If you were going to put something in the car to break glass it wouldn’t be a headrest.ÔÇØ

The NRMA said headrests are designed to be detachable to allow for easy adjustment of the seat and to be removed for cleaning. 

And according to the NRMA, glass in cars is not designed to be easily broken and, depending on whether the glass is laminated or tinted, it can be increasingly difficult to do so. 

ÔÇ£It’s really hard to break the glass in cars. They are designed to be difficult to break,ÔÇØ the spokesperson said.

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck has found the post to be false. The post incorrectly states that the headrest of car seats is deliberately kept detachable and sharp so that it could be used to break open the glass of a car. Experts confirmed this was not the reason behind the design of a headrest. Further, the post claims the car’s glass is made to be easily breakable from inside. Experts also confirmed this was false. While there has been an example of a car headrest being used to break a car window from inside – in a Japanese TV game show – there is no evidence that this is due to the specific design of the item. 

  • False – The primary claims of the content are factually inaccurate.

 First published October 31, 2019, 18:54 AEDT

All information, text and images included on the AAP Websites is for personal use only and may not be re-written, copied, re-sold or re-distributed, framed, linked, shared onto social media or otherwise used whether for compensation of any kind or not, unless you have the prior written permission of AAP. For more information, please refer to our standard terms and conditions.