What to do when you find yourself in a burning car
There are roughly six million car accidents in the USA per year. In 2019, 189,500 of those involved a car on fire. The statistics for car fires go back to 1980 when the figure was 456,000 of all accidents. It has been in decline ever since, with 1988 being the only anomaly. This is most likely due to mass production cars moving away from carburetors to fuel injection. However, car fires shouldn't be ignored because of their infrequency. As humans, we tend to think that something unusual as this can't possibly happen to us. And then it does, and we have no clue how to handle the situation.
The statistics are even more petrifying once one looks closer. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) claims that 20% of the fires it responds to are vehicle fires. According to the US Fire Administration's most recent figures, 83% of vehicle fires involved passenger cars. The average fatality rate per 1,000 fires is 2.9 people, and the average financial loss is $7,290. The latter figure is the calculation of the vehicle(s) lost and property damages. Life is undeniably worth more than $7,000.
Why do cars catch on fire? Well, to create fire, you need three things: a heat source, oxygen, and fuel. An internal combustion engine has all of these, but while the risk of fire has decreased with advances in technology, there are some common flaws and car safety tips we can point out:
Now that you know why a car catches fire, you should be able to identify the early warning signs of a car fire. Here are a few indications that a car has caught on fire or may be about to:
If you're sure the car is on fire, follow these fire safety instructions:
There are some pretty obvious things you shouldn't do, like smoking in your car. It's terrible for you and your vehicle, 'mkay. It's also best not leave any flammable items in the car. If you're not sure whether or not something is flammable, it should say so on the label. Obvious explosive items include gasoline, chlorine, lighter fluid, alcohol, and aerosol cans. Did you know nail polish is flammable, too?
Regular maintenance should ensure that there are no fuel leaks or electrical problems, and if you need some guidance on a maintenance schedule, check it out here. But before you spend money you don't have, try these tricks to check for problems:
Vehicle fires don't happen as often as regular crashes, but they're frequent enough to worry about. The big takeaway from this article is that around 50% of the causes of car fires can be eliminated via regular inspections and common sense.
If your vehicle catches fire while driving, you should pull over as soon as it's safe, get yourself and the front and rear passengers out of the car immediately and move away from it before alerting the fire department. A car burning out happens much faster than you think. In most cases, cars will burn out completely before the fire department even arrives.
It's not a bad idea at all, especially if you're driving your family around in a station wagon. If the fire is still small, you may be able to extinguish it, but don't try to be a hero. A fire extinguisher costs anywhere between $50 to $400, but there are cheaper aerosol alternatives for small fires. They start at around $13.
Definitely not. Putting more stress on the engine will only increase the heat and force oxygen in, which will feed the fire.
Safe driving should always be a given. Using defensive driving techniques, you can sometimes spot problems before they even happen. The vast majority of car crashes don't result in a fire, but it's never a bad idea to drive safely.
When it comes to insurance, there is never a simple yes or no answer. Comprehensive car insurance will generally cover a fire caused by an electrical fault, when another fire spreads to a car, or in the case of a car thief burning a car to destroy evidence. A fire caused by a car accident is also usually covered, as are fires caused by a defective engine. Natural disasters usually aren't covered, and arson is another gray area.