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How to get in and out of cars



+++ The advice contained in this article is intended to assist with lawful reactions to emergency situations only. Any use of force should be for the purposes of self defence or the prevention of crime only; and it should be a reasonable and proportionate reaction. As a general rule, in most countries' legal systems the use of force to protect oneself or others against unlawful and violent acts of third parties is permissible: but you are not permitted to use disproportionate force. Do not break the law, and be aware of what the law says in the environment in which you are working. Legal rules applicable in active conflict zones may be different from rules applicable in civilian environments, depending on who you are and why you are there. The full text of the foregoing rider applies to all our articles. +++


Getting in and out of cars is not as easy as it looks. Of course this article assumes you wish to get in and out of cars other than in circumstances in which the manufacturer's handbook would recommend it. Unfortunately these things do happen. And it is all very difficult and unpleasant.

  1. Let us start by distinguishing between manual and automatic locks. Manual locks lock the door with a physical action bringing down a hammer device to prevent the door from opening. Automatic locks use an electronic system.

  2. It is possible to be locked into a car with an automatic lock system; but not with a car with a purely manual lock system. In the latter case, you simply lift the lock latch and open the door. In the former case it is more difficult.

  3. Where the doors are automatically locked, you can use a coat hanger, straightened out, and jam it between door and car close to handle whereupon you will break the circuit and the door will unlock. However this is not as straightforward as it sounds. Unless you've done it dozens of times, it's going to take you a few minutes. And in the meantime there may be someone in the front, or sitting next to you, with a different agenda such as driving you to some very bad place or using force to prevent you from doing this.

  4. If you have one to hand, you can shoot the lock out with a compact handgun such as a Beretta Pico; or wrench the door from the car frame using a heavy steel wrench.

  5. Absent these tools, the best solution is a pointed steel glass breaking hammer, which will also typically include a hidden knife to slice open your safety belt. Several (two to four) strikes to the window will cause it to fragment, whereupon you can just push the entire window out and then exit via the window. This is particularly important if the car is sinking in water.

  6. You may be able to open the door by leaning out of the window and using the door handle. However this may not be possible and you may need to leave via the window. Modern safety windows will not leave sharp shards; but use an item of clothing or other cloth to clean out the sharp edges.

  7. In the absence of one of these devices, a piece of metal or wood should do the trick. You repeatedly strike the edge of the window, not the centre.

  8. Absent all the above, you wrap your fist in a cloth and punch your way out. Warning: the author has done this and it is very painful. There is a possibility that you break your knuckles; more likely you will only bruise them. But get a quick X-ray after the event.

  9. If, having removed the window pane, the car is still moving (this is rare as the act of smashing out the driver's back window is typically sufficient to grab his attention), then you need to proceed to the act of leaving a car while it is moving.

  10. This is dangerous; the level of danger depends upon the speed the car is going. This author has done it at 20mph while wearing t-shirt and shorts; he was covered in serious cuts and bruises but no bones were broken. At any speed, exiting a moving car is very painful indeed.

  11. The textbook way of exiting a car travelling at speed is to fall out of it backwards, tucking your head in as you must avoid a blow to your head at speed; and roll, with your head continuing to be tucked in by your hands. Just do it when the car has reduced in speed, preferably to zero (e.g. at a traffic light).

  12. One way of reducing the speed of a car to zero even if you are not driving it is to lean forward (or over) and remove the ignition key from the ignition by turning it to the right or left (depending on which side of the road the car is designed for) and pulling it out. This unorthodox trick causes chaos. This author has only ever done it at 30mph in a built up city. The car jerks to a sharp stop, with terrible loud noises that sound like the gears crunching. Nevertheless it gets the job done and then you just get out of the car. It is not known to this author what the results of doing this might be at higher speeds and/or on the open road. It could be very dangerous.

  13. Another similar method, suggested to us as effective although we have not actually tried it, is to lean forwards (or over) and put the gearstick (whether manual or automatic) into reverse. This is apparently a very effective way of bringing a moving car to a halt.

  14. Every exercise in exiting a car travelling at speed tends to damage your watch, generally terminally. Wear a cheap one, or place it in your convenient shoulder bag that is perfect to use to exit a car at speed because things in your pockets are likely to end up strewn down the road and damaged beyond repair.

  15. If you find yourself trying to get out of a car window you have broken open while the car is still moving at speed, the scene may somewhat resemble a James Bond movie. Get your bottom and your head out of the car; leave your feet inside; and use your hands to grip the roof. Continue like this until the car comes to a stop. (All cars have to come to a stop eventually.) Then eject yourself backwards and out.

  16. There are stories of people rolling out of cars at 80mph; but generally this is incredibly dangerous and you may not survive, particularly if you are wearing normal clothes. People have fallen off motorcycles travelling at much higher speeds, with motorbike leathers, provided that they managed to fling themselves free of the cycle frame; but you may not be wearing such leathers in the back of a car.

  17. Entering cars is much the same as exiting them. You can pick the manual lock; you can use a coat hanger to open an automatic lock; you can use a glass hammer; or a piece of steel or wood.

  18. Another useful tool is a neodymium magnet attached to a strong rope. Attached to the back of a car on its undercarriage, a good neodymium magnet will tear a car in two as it drives off. This generally prevents further progress of a vehicle heading in an unwanted direction.

  19. Finally, we would like to advise that rendering a car immobile by stabbing its tyres is much harder than it looks. A small lock knife will not do; you need a large Bowie knife of the kind that is illegal in many jurisdictions. Just keep on stabbing until you see visible deflation.