According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Fire Administration/FEMA between 2014-2016, an estimated 171,500 highway vehicle fires occurred in the United States, resulting in an annual average of 345 deaths; 1,300 injuries; and $1.1 billion in property loss. These highway vehicle fires accounted for 13 percent of fires responded to by fire departments across the nation. The majority of vehicles involved in these fires, 83 percent, occurred in passenger vehicles. What causes vehicle fires and what should you do if your car catches fire?
According to statistics provided by the National Fire Protection Association, mechanical and electrical failures were factors in roughly two-thirds of automobile fires reported. Only about four-percent of vehicle fires were due to a collision or roll-over. Therefore, keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance and being aware of danger signs are the keys to vehicle fire prevention.
If fluids or oil are leaking from your car, get it checked out by a service professional quickly. The fact is that most car fluids are flammable. Obviously check out smells of burning rubber or plastic coming from your vehicle while driving. Dramatic rises in your engine temperature gauge and cracked or loose electrical wiring should also be looked at by a professional mechanic. A combination of heat, sparks, and leaking fluid are a recipe for danger.
So, what should you do if your car catches fire? First off, the good news is that less than one-percent of all vehicle fires result in a fatality. However, never take chances with your safety. Pull your vehicle over as quickly as it is safe to do so, be sure to use your signal. Once you have stopped, TURN OFF the engine. Get yourself and all others away from the vehicle and Never attempt to get back into the vehicle to retrieve personal property. Call 911 or your local emergency telephone number. If you have a fire extinguisher on hand, make sure you use it at a safe distance from the vehicle and be certain to use a fire extinguisher approved for Class B and Class C fires. In addition, never open the hood or trunk if you suspect a fire under it, as air could cause the fire to enlarge. Finally, stand to the side of the roadway to avoid being hit by other vehicles.
One final thought concerns transporting gasoline. When you carry full gas cans in your car, make sure the top is securely sealed. Keep them in your trunk, never in the passenger compartment. Also, travel with windows cracked or down for ventilating the gas fumes.
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