Mythbusters: Vehicle headrests are meant to break vehicle windows


Every once in a while, a meme goes around on Facebook that catches my attention. And one such meme has been making the rounds on my friends’ profiles. For some reason, this one has been wildly popular and everyone seems to be very excited about the implications and benefits of this information.


And it has gotten me wondering. Is this true? Because if so, I had no idea and what a great hidden trick! If not, then it is probably sort of dangerous for people to be spreading it to others when there are devices that are specifically created to help break windows in an emergency.

So let’s get to some myth busting or maybe confirming this time?

MYTH: A vehicle headrest is left deliberately detachable and sharp so that it can be used to break a vehicle’s window and the glass of a vehicle window is easily broken from the inside.

I’m going to break this down into two parts: the headrest and the window.

Let’s look first at the major function of a headrest. It’s part of the restraint system and anyone who is using a backless booster or a seatbelt alone, absolutely should have a headrest. It is critically important for preventing neck hyperextension in a crash and could be the difference between a spinal cord injury and just normal whiplash. So that’s its primary function. Now what about the window breaking?

I did some poking around the internet and found a very long (and dull) document about headrest function and design written by NHTSA. Despite being at least 10 pages long, there is nothing in it about the potential to break vehicle windows.

The other thing that leads me to believe that this part of the myth may not be true is that not every vehicle has removable headrests. It seems like if this was part of an industry standard, then there wouldn’t be these outliers with non-detachable headrests. And I took off the headrests of both of my cars and sadly, neither were sharp.

I’m going to go ahead and say that a vehicle headrest isn’t left deliberately detachable or sharp for window breaking. It is potentially a major bonus (if it can indeed break a window), but it is not a part of the primary design of the vehicle seat in anything I’ve found.

Now, to the second part: whether vehicle glass easy to break. I really felt strongly that the answer to that was no, but there is definitely a lot to learn about vehicle glass.

FMVSS 205 — This sets clear standards for automotive window transparency and the strength of automotive glass required to keep occupants inside the vehicle during accidents. That right there, sounds like strong glass, right?

The windshield is made of laminated glass, where the side windows are tempered glass. Laminated glass is two layers of glass with a layer of polyvinyl butyral in the middle. The PVB allows the glass to absorb energy and makes it stronger than typical glass, which both helps maintain the roof space in a roll over and prevents passengers from being ejected through the windshield. I strongly suspect that laminated glass would not yield to a vehicle headrest prong.

Tempered glass is glass that is heated and quickly cooled. What this does is allow the outside layers, which are cooler, to contract and compress, but the inside, which is still hot, is able to expand, making the glass extremely strong both when put until tensile and compressive forces. Tempered glass is somewhere between 5 and 10 times stronger than standard glass. While this process makes strong glass, it does make the edges weaker, which is why those edges are ground and smoothed down (look at the top of your windows to see what I’m talking about). Might this weakness be how a vehicle headrest can break a vehicle window? Arguably yes, but! let’s look again at our myth.

It states that the vehicle headrest is deliberately detachable so it can be used to break a vehicle window, which we’ve already found to be dubious at best, and that the vehicle window is easily broken from the inside. The way that the tempered and laminated glasses are created is entirely for the opposite purpose. These glasses are intended to be exceptionally strong: to hold the frame of the car stable, to keep occupants inside, to withstand the concussive force of the passenger airbag. Nothing about the design of laminated or tempered glass is in any way easy to break.

Verdict: This myth, as it is written, is busted.

Now, before you comment with the video of the woman breaking her window open with the vehicle headrest, which I have seen, know that I’m not saying that it is impossible. I’m simply saying that, per this meme, a vehicle headrest is not created with this intention in mind and that vehicle glass is very intentionally hard to break. And more importantly, there are several tools on the market that will reliably and much more easily break your window open in a crash and you should absolutely have at least one of these in your car. Many will double as seatbelt cutters and could literally save your life in a crash involving water or a heavily damaged door.

belt cutter1



In the end, I’m hoping that this meme will slowly die, or perhaps be replaced with one that includes information about belt cutter/window breaking kits so that more families don’t have to hope their headrests come off or that they can get the exact right leverage to break their window in an emergency. Let’s not rely on hoping that vehicle companies imagined this secondary benefit of a headrest and instead spend the $5 for peace of mind and confidence that you have the ability to escape after a crash.


Memorial Day Remembrance


Memorial Day Meme

Bumper Bullies


People have been doing it since automobiles first appeared on roads.  We’ve all probably been guilty of tailgating the car in front of us from time to time.  I’ve certainly followed slow drivers too closely, though never unsafely close like many drivers I’ve seen (my wife may disagree…)  On at least one road near my house, it seems far more than isolated cases of being very late to an appointment.  It’s more like an epidemic of road-ragers and just plain inconsiderate and unsafe drivers.

The main route through our subdivision is a 4-lane city road.  Our stretch of this road is at least a few miles long of only residential areas, and so no large trucks are allowed.  The speed limit is 35 mph for miles in either direction and signs are posted frequently.  The problem is that this road goes from one end of town to the other, from the interstate highway to all the residences in the south end of town.  That apparently is the only excuse needed for drivers to be in a big hurry, all day, every day.

Where my street ends at this road is our school district’s new pre-K school that also serves children with disabilities.  That serves as no deterrent to speeders, lane weavers and bumper bullies.  I drive this road frequently, and if it is anywhere close to rush hour, there is someone so close to my rear bumper that I can’t see their headlights in my mirrors.   And it doesn’t seem to matter how fast I’m driving, someone is always on my bumper trying to bully me to drive faster.


My response is to then drive EXACTLY 35 mph until my turn, but the bullies never take a hint about their unsafe driving.  For most, they simply look for an opportunity to be even less safe.  They swerve into the other lane to cut off another car, then speed past me until they get on the bumper of yet another vehicle and have to slow down again a few seconds later.  Or, they have to jam on the brakes at the next traffic signal behind another group of cars they will unsafely tailgate to repeat the cycle.

From expressway until the road ends, it’s about 7 miles long.  Considering all the stoplights and traffic, it’s unlikely the bullies can average 10 miles per hour faster than safe drivers, even if they do manage to go 50mph or faster for short stretches.  A savings of perhaps a few minutes in a best case scenario, but realistically only a minute or two.  Is it really worth it?  Not only being an idiot and contributing to their own stress and blood pressure levels, but endangering other drivers, their own passengers and pedestrians, too?


Graco 4Ever Review: Is a 4-In-1 Carseat Your New BFF?

Graco 4Ever All-in-1 Car Seat: A 2016 Editors’ Pick from Birth to Seatbelt

Like the Fountain of Youth or the Holy Grail, a true multi-function “forever” car seat has been eluding desperate searchers for years. Yes, there already are seats that rear-face, forward-face, and turn into a booster, but they are often lacking in at least one function, and when that happens, what’s the point?

So when Graco came out with the 4Ever All-in-1, which rear-faces, forward-faces, and turns into both a high-back and backless booster, it was easy to get excited but also easy to have reservations. Will it really do what it claims, and do it well?

Short answer: Yes!  The Graco 4Ever is now a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat and an Editors’ Pick.  (Updated May, 2016)

4Ever Specs and Features:

  • Rear-facing: 4-40 lbs.
  • Forward-facing (with harness): 20-65 lbs and 49″ or less
  • High-back booster: 30-100 lbs. and 38-57″
  • Backless booster: 40-120 lbs. and 40-57″
  • No-rethread harness with 10 position headrest
  • Adjustable base with 6 recline positions (3 for rear-facing, 3 for forward-facing)
  • Easy-to-read bubble level indicator
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • Premium push-on lower LATCH anchor connectors (LATCH limit: Child weight of 42 lbs.)
  • Dual integrated cup holders (simple assembly required)


  • Lowest harness height (with infant insert): 7″
  • naked 4everHighest harness height: 18″
  • Tallest booster height: 18.75″
  • Internal rear-facing height: 27.5″ (that’s one inch below the headrest adjustment lever of 28.5″)
  • Crotch buckle positions: 5″ and 7″
  • Seating depth: 12″
  • Internal seat width: 13″
  • Widest external seat width: 19.5″ (at cup holders)
  • Widest point on base: 15″
  • Narrowest point on base: 11.5″ (at very front and very back)

Installation/Fit to Vehicle:

In general, the 4EVER is an easy-to-install seat, which is always a good thing. It installed nicely in rear-facing and forward-facing modes in the vehicles I tried it in (2010 Honda Odyssey and 2014 Honda Civic) with the seatbelt and with LATCH. The belt paths are clearly labeled and color-coded both on the seat and in the manual (blue for rear-facing, orange for forward-facing, green for booster). The LATCH and tether straps are easy to loosen when you need to, but stay secure otherwise. My particular model has the premium push-on LATCH connectors, but the manual includes a drawing/description of the hook style, too, so it’s possible that other models will come with those.

For LATCH installations, it’s important to note that the lower anchors need to be discontinued once the child reaches 42 lbs., in accordance with the new LATCH regulations. For kids over 42 lbs., install the 4Ever with seatbelt and tether.

Unlike some of the other Graco convertibles (like the MySize/Size4Me/Headwise) that have separate LATCH straps for the rear-facing and forward-facing beltpaths, the 4EVER only has one, which means it needs to be manually switched between modes. The process isn’t as complicated as it is on some seats, but not as easy as on some others. It would have been nice to see the two separate LATCH straps on this model, too.

Here’s a video showing how to switch the LATCH straps from forward-facing to rear-facing modes, how to tighten the LATCH straps rear-facing, and how to put a rear-facing child into the seat: