Driving along the picturesque country lanes of Shropshire, it’s not uncommon to witness a passing vehicle that is distinctive for a sizeable crack across its windscreen often leading you to wonder if it’s really safe to drive a vehicle with such noticeable damage.
Clearly, the question hasn’t always occurred to the owners of the vehicles and, according to research carried out by one leading windscreen fitter, it’s maybe unsurprising.
A survey by Fleet News discovered that drivers are ‘unaware’ of the dangers of driving with cracked windscreens of the 1,000 UK drivers who took part, more than half (53%) didn’t understand that a damaged windscreen can affect a car’s ‘crush resistance’ if it rolls onto its roof, while 43% failed to appreciate that driving with a cracked windscreen may be an offence. Understandably, cracked windscreen repair is critical, so knowing the dangers could potentially save your life.
A weaker vehicle body.
The importance of a windscreen is, by its name, a little misleading as it seems to imply its only function is to provide shelter from the elements. While this is one of its purposes, a modern windscreen is an integral part of a car’s structure, helping to stabilise the roof by transferring the force of an impact to the chassis without endangering the occupants of the vehicle.
A windscreen that is weakened by a crack might not be able to withstand the force of an accident, meaning the roof could collapse inwardly, causing serious injury or death to the occupants of the car.
Vehicle occupants in danger.
In a head-on road accident, objects - including passengers – are propelled towards the windscreen at an incredible force. For example, at only 30mph a passenger of average height and build will exert a force equivalent to a one-tonne animal, such as a buffalo or polar bear. While a strong, intact windscreen will provide considerable resistance, even to this amount of force, a crack means that the glass is not structurally strong enough to withstand the pressure, meaning that you or your passengers could be thrown through the windscreen, causing serious injury and rendering the remaining occupants of the vehicle in danger from the collapse of the car’s structure.
Ineffective airbag deployment.
Airbags have proven to be an invaluable invention that has helped to limit the severity of injuries to drivers and their passengers in road accidents. It’s not uncommon for an inflating airbag to strike the windscreen from inside the vehicle with considerable force, meaning that glass that is weakened by a crack may shatter under pressure. As airbags are usually deployed as soon as a collision has occurred – and therefore possibly before the vehicle has stopped moving – the loss of the windscreen could prove to be significant in terms of how effectively protected the occupants of the car are in the impact.
Furthermore, if the windscreen shatters, the airbag is unlikely to deploy correctly, thereby offering less protection for the driver or front seat passenger.
Obstructed driver vision.
A crack in the windscreen may seem inconsequential, but in actual fact it can greatly affect the vision of the driver, creating a blind spot that could be crucial in contributing to a road traffic accident. Drivers need to have optimum all-round vision in order to have full awareness of their surroundings and the existence of factors that could lead to an accident, but a windscreen crack could cause even a momentary loss of concentration – seconds that are critical in determining whether a collision can be avoided.
Even a small crack is not necessarily harmless, as it has the potential to expand rapidly and unpredictably and cause an obstruction for the driver.
Finally, it is worth noting that a cracked windscreen is likely to be illegal and will certainly be identified during your vehicle’s MOT. However, putting the law aside, there are sufficient grounds to replace a cracked windscreen as a matter of urgency in order to ensure the safety of you and your passengers.