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I would like to install life hammers on the rear doors of my car. These life hammers are supposedly easy to use by children.

I asked the manufacturer for a minimum age for using this life hammer. They told me that while using it in an emergency wouldn't be the problem, using it when there is not an emergency would be! Therefore they recommend I install the life hammer only when the child can tell when it should be used.

How do I know whether my child can do so?

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This seems to me to depend on your specific child. There isn't an age, but a maturity level: just as the manufacturer said. (Leaving aside the question as to whether this has any value per se, as that's off topic.) –  Joe Aug 20 at 4:49

2 Answers 2

Looking at the design of the product it looks remarkably like an automatic punch with a blade recessed into the handle. The kinds of situation it's meant for seem to be serious car accidents where the seatbelt has become jammed or the occupant is trapped, so we're not addressing minor shunts and the forces involved before the hammer is required will be significant.

I'd ask a few questions to determine risks and benefits...

Can they be trusted not to touch it? If you press it to your head or other body parts (as kids often do) the autopunch part of this device will definitely hurt them. So if they're young enough for you to ask the question at all then they are too young.

Can they actually use it in an emergency? As much as it is purported to be easy to use by the manufacturers, in the confusion following an accident will they actually be able to use it to escape the vehicle? Do you have some spare seats around that you can use to train them? Even if you try will they even be strong enough to use it or have the dexterity to use it in that situation? If there is a question mark there again then the answer would be that they are still too young.

What are they going to do when they get out? As distressing as it may be to think a child might be stuck; what is even a young teenager going to do while dazed or shocked following an accident? In that state even adults have problems acting rationally and are going to be better off in the car where emergency services can find them and give help. So unless they're very mature and can cope under extreme pressure again it's probably not a good idea to install one for them.

Based on the risks, by the time a child gets to the level of capability and maturity needed for this kind of product to protect them they will be almost adult. So maybe if you really are sold on having one of these then the better thing to do is install one in the front of the car by the centre console where adults can get to it (or an older child can direct another adult to it) and in all other circumstances the risks will outweigh any benefits.

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Does your kid listen to your commands? If you say "don't touch it" does he touch the thing? What does he do when he gets bored - does he look around for anything to do? Does he then respect your firm don't?

Breaking a window while driving at high speed would be extremely dangerous. Glass fragments could cause serious wounds, possibly to eyes.

Why not keep the hammer only on your side, unreachable to the kid? It's better than having none at all.

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My oldest child does listen quite well to what I tell her. The idea of having the life hammer within reach of the child is to give the child a chance to rescue itself. It is not unlikely that, after an accident, the front passengers are unconsious while the kids in the rear seat can only wait to be rescued. You do give me the idea to attach a bell to the life hammer - that way we can hear when it's being played with. –  spaceknarf Aug 19 at 11:35
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Car windows are safety glass without sharp edges, so "extremely dangerous" is a serious exaggeration. It's no worse than fine gravel. The bell is a nice idea! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 20 at 7:17
    
@Torben I don't think "extremely dangerous" is an exaggeration. anything in the eyes can cause damage, certainly something as abrasive and sharp as "safety" glass. Having been in the business of breaking glass as a stained glass artist for over 20 years, I can tell you that when glass breaks-even "safety glass"-tiny slivers go everywhere. And that "gravel" that is left post-break is just as likely to cut you as any glass. I've cut myself plenty of times vacuuming my car out post-break in >:( –  Jax Aug 26 at 1:36

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