Post-collision fuel-fed fires can cause horrible burns and other injuries and incredible suffering. Many of these fires are needless and can be prevented if automakers dedicated more time, money, and attention into creating and testing safer vehicle parts. A safe automobile design minimizes the risk of fuel-fed fires by providing adequate protection to both the fuel tank and the fuel system. It is a basic principle of crashworthiness that if an occupant can survive a collision and its crash forces without serious skeletal or internal injuries, the fuel system should similarly remain secure and intact. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
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Fuel tank design defects and defects in the placement of fuel tanks can cause a tank to rupture and leak during a collision. While there is fairly widespread agreement that the safest location for a fuel tank is between the two axles, many vehicles have fuel tanks mounted behind the rear axle, making them vulnerable in rear impacts. Other locations are equally dangerous. Some pickup trucks have “sidesaddle” fuel tanks mounted outside the frame where they are extremely vulnerable in side impacts.
According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), two-thirds of car fires are caused by electrical and mechanical failures. This can include issues with defective heated seats, faulty car batteries, heating systems, or even poorly designed aftermarket accessories. Even a single stray, frayed wire could spark a catastrophic fire. The United States Fire Administration estimates that faulty insulation around wiring is the cause of 29% of all highway vehicle fires.
If your vehicle's engine gets too hot, it can cause coolants or oils to rise to dangerous temperatures and spill onto your vehicle's engine or exhaust system and ignite. Engines which have a high tendency to overheat can place drivers and passengers in extreme danger. In fact, data from the United States Fire Administration indicates that 62% of highway vehicle fires and 36% of fatal highway vehicle fires originate in the engine, running gear or wheel area of the vehicle.
Post collision fires can also occur because of defects in the fuel lines or fuel pumps. Now that most cars have fuel injected engines, fuel travels through fuel lines at significant pressure. A fuel line rupture can therefore result in significant leakage of fuel. Lines can rupture because of poor placement or routing as well as poor material composition.
Most cars with fuel injected engines also typically have electric fuel pumps. Unless it shuts off properly after a collision, a fuel pump can continue to circulate gasoline through the fuel lines and fuel system.
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