When we think about injuries suffered during a motor vehicle accident or about the cause of death of someone involved in a car crash, burn injuries or death by fire do not usually come to mind. Yet, one out of eight fire victims in the United States got burned in a motor vehicle accident and 600 people are killed every year in car fires.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 287,000 vehicle fires occurred each year between 2003 and 2007, causing a yearly average of 480 deaths, 1,525 injuries and $1.3 billion in property damage each year. During that period, family cars (cars, trucks, SUV, minivans, etc.) were the source of 93 percent of the vehicle fires and 92 percent of the vehicle fire deaths.
While mechanical failures were the cause of about 75 percent of the vehicle fires, such failures were the cause of only 11 percent of the deaths. However, while crashes were the cause of only 3 percent of the vehicle fires, they were the cause of 58 percent of the deaths by vehicle fires.
Victims of motor vehicle fires are often trapped in their wrecked cars after a collision. Unfortunately, some burn to death while so trapped…Such was the case in the car pile up that took place recently on Interstate 75 outside Gainesville due to a combination of heavy fog and smoke. Both witnesses and rescuers tell tales of horror in which victims could only be located by rescuers following their screams and unidentified burnt bodies remained trapped inside their charred vehicles the following morning.
Fire Is Not The Only Killer
When it comes to fires in motor vehicles, the flames themselves are not the only cause of death. Cars, trucks, buses, etc. are made of synthetic materials that produce very harmful or deadly gases (like carbon monoxide) as they burn.
Moreover, a burning vehicle can (and sometimes does) explode, shooting deadly shrapnel (bolts, struts, engine parts, etc.) much like a military grenade would. These vehicle fires are so dangerous that firefighters take no chances with them, often letting them burn down before putting foam on the flames and wearing full fire fighting protective gear when fighting these fires.
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