Should We Replace Laminated Sidelites with Tempered Glass?

In May of 2014, I posted an article addressing the dilemma of whether the use of laminated sidelites were a safety device or a performance device. Recently this same issue came up again. Evidently, some customers have asked an automotive glass shop to install a tempered door glass in place of the broken laminated part due to the lower cost. Should we be installing tempered in place of laminated? Is this a safety concern?

Some may argue that customer service should take precedence because there is no definitive statement of a safety-related purpose. To my knowledge, glass manufacturers’ websites sell the acoustical properties and security issues as the benefits of laminated glass and say nothing of the safety benefits.

Some believe that the purpose is obvious and that it acts as a backstop for the air curtain, much like the windshield does for the passenger side airbag, and it prevents ejection in the event of a rollover accident. So some believe it should be replaced with laminated if that is how is was originally equipped. After all, didn’t the manufacturer put it there for a reason?

Neither of these beliefs are wrong. The technology being added to the modern vehicle is exciting to watch but scary to contemplate. As a business owner myself, I constantly have to make decisions that must be calculated and thought out for the well-being of my customer and for the benefit of my business and employees. Is this a safety device or is it not? If I please this customer, do I put my business under a liability? How do I reduce liability? These questions, and more like them, can make for restless nights. I know because it happens to me.

I have been involved with many litigations over my career and my belief is simple. Safety may not be mentioned in an advertisement, website or dealership, but if a consumer believes that a feature is beneficial to their personal safety, it is a safety device no matter how it is labeled. It just hasn’t been tested in court as yet. Obviously, none of us what to be the test case.

These are difficult decisions. I nor anyone else can tell a business owner how to run their company. We can help them find accounting advice; we can recommend a successful business plan; and we can advise on marketing strategies. But the way an owner runs his/her business is entirely up to them and no one else. This is one of those issues that the owner must sit down and think out how much liability am I willing to take on and what are the consequences of my decision. Will the increase in revenue or customer service reputation override any possibility of fault?  Or, will those few installations come back to haunt you later?

In any case, think it through and follow your instincts.