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The Case of the Dangerous Broken Auto Glass

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Question About Hazardous Broken Automotive Glass:

Dear Glass Detective,

Recently hit an elk with my vehicle. The windshield, front passenger window and moon roof were all broken. My colleague and I had to go to the emergency room to have glass removed. I had a piece in my finger and he had a few tiny shards near his eye.

As you might expect, given the impact, there is broken glass throughout the entire vehicle. What was unexpected is that the glass is not just in rock salt-sized pieces but it is also in tiny sharp shards (similar to if you broke a light bulb). Is that to be expected or a sign of substandard safety glass?

Asking because I have a business with work vehicles. If this is not to be expected with auto glass, how can I make sure that glass companies in my area are replacing the glass in my work vehicles with quality glass. Is there a type of glass (e.g. labeled or certified) that I should be asking for?

-Jeff K.

Answer to Question Regarding Dangerous Broken Auto Glass:


Thank you for contacting the Glass Detective with your question concerning injuries received from glass broken in an automobile accident. Let me begin by stating that I am glad you came through your “Elk Encounter” without anything that will cause you prolonged suffering or permanent disability. It sounds like you had quite an adventure.

As for your glass questions: First, there were apparently two types of glass breakage that you were dealing with. The glass from the windshield (a laminated glass product) under certain circumstances can become dislodged from the vinyl inner layer to which it is laminated. If it does, the pieces “spalling” off the windshield can be sharp and certainly cut a person’s skin. While this is not common, it is possible. This is true for both automotive and architectural laminated glass products.

Secondly, the other type of glass breakage you describe is from the door glass and moonroof panel and was almost certainly tempered glass and while the glass breakage from tempered glass is typically not large or sharp, it can scratch and even cut skin when it breaks because it “explodes” apart with a fair amount of energy and if you are close to it when it breaks, it can cut. And yes, when tempered glass breaks, it goes in almost every direction and is a mess to clean up.

I have had my hands cut by tempered glass when it broke (I was carrying it at the time) but the cuts were minor. I have also known people who had tempered glass break and hit them in the eye(s) causing permanent damage. Products labeled as “safety glass,” while certainly much safer than non-safety glass, are still by no means absolutely safe under any and all conditions.  Glass for automotive use is manufactured under very strict standards and guidelines and must comply with certain DOT standards for use in on and off-road vehicles. I doubt very much that the glass you describe was defectively manufactured.

While I am sorry for the injuries sustained, they could have been much worse and perhaps the glass that broke and caused minor injuries may have actually kept you from more severe injuries. As for the other vehicles in your fleet and the glass companies in your area that may be servicing them, I am only going to suggest that you use shops that are certified as Auto Glass Safety Council members who have knowledgeable and properly trained representatives and technicians. You can find them by searching for a replacement company and looking for this logo:


I hope this response is of some value to you and thank you again for contacting the Glass Detective.

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Lyle Hill

Lyle Hill has been in the glass and metal industry for more than 40 years. In this time he has managed glass retail, contract glazing, mirror, architectural window, window film, and automotive glass businesses throughout America. He obtained an MBA from IIT with a focus on Technology and Engineering Management. Hill is also a columnist for glass industry trade magazines and often called the “face” of the glass industry. He has also authored books including “The Broken Tomato and Other Business Parables,” which is available through Amazon. Find out more about Lyle on Linkedin.

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