Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler March 3, 2017

how to stay safe if your car catches fire
Photo by Dimos (iStock by Getty Images)

Has your car ever caught on fire? Or have you witnessed another car on fire? If so, you know how dangerous it can be. That’s why it’s vital that Americans be prepared to stay safe if their car catches fire — a potentially deadly situation. And Jim Adler & Associates has answers.

Stop and Turn Off the Engine

If you smell something burning or detect fire or smoke from your vehicle, stop the vehicle — as quickly as possible — and turn off the engine. Perhaps signal, pull over and park out of traffic if you can. But the most important thing is to stop your car quickly and cut off the engine. Turning off the car’s ignition will stop the flow of fire-feeding fuel to the engine.

Get Away

Next, get away from the vehicle as quickly — and as safely — as possible. When you and all other occupants, including pets, are out of the vehicle, move at least 150 feet away, or about half the length of a football field. Then call 911 for help from the local fire department.

And don’t forget to check the backseat for a possible sleeping infant in a car seat. They are left behind far too often by inattentive or distracted parents, leading to hot-car deaths in parked vehicles. Obviously, a car fire is another situation where it is vital that toddlers not be forgotten and left behind.

When exiting the vehicle, don’t delay while trying to save objects within it. If you can immediately grab a purse or a laptop while leaving the car, and without slowing yourself down, you may want to do so.

But the most important thing is to get out of the car and then move away for safety, as quickly as possible. Objects can be replaced. People cannot.

Fire Extinguishers Can Help

If the fire isn’t in the engine or near a gas tank and is a small fire, you might consider trying to extinguish it yourself before it spreads. But that would necessitate carrying a small fire extinguisher with you, perhaps in your trunk.

Keep one handy just in case, and learn how to operate it in advance. You won’t have time to study instructions and test the device if your car already is burning.

However, never try to extinguish a fire coming from the rear of a vehicle, near the gas tank. Instead, get away quickly.

Car Fires Are Common

You may have witnessed only a few car fires in your lifetime. And you may never have had one yourself. But don’t be fooled: Car fires are not as uncommon as you might think.

The National Fire Protection Association says the United States has 33 car fires reported every hour. Granted, that’s less than one per state, but that’s also 792 car fires per day, across the county. So it happens regularly.

In early 2017, Texas has had many reports of car fires.

In one, a Good Samaritan saved a woman from a car fire in San Antonio by pulling her from the burning vehicle. In another, police in Glenn Heights, in North Texas, were able to use their patrol car to push a burning pickup truck out of the drive-through lane next to a Jack in the Box restaurant.

Further, a car was on fire recently on the top floor of a parking garage in Dallas’ Uptown area. When police and firefighters arrived, they found a body in the burning vehicle.

Car Fire Causes

Car fires can erupt due to mechanical failures of a vehicle, or due to driver failures, since many cars catch on fire as a result of a driver-caused accidents. In fact, car fires erupting after an accident can do far more damage than the original crash.

Young and inexperienced drivers, who tend to have more collisions, are most associated with car fires. But with that said, other causes of car fires include poor engine maintenance, which can happen with anyone.

Indeed, a majority of car fires happen due to split fuel pipes or fuel line malfunction. Such problems might be detected if a vehicle is regularly tuned up.

Historically, car fires also have included many caused by manufacturing defects unknown to the  owner. That includes a notorious rash of Ford Pinto car fires in the 1970s. Also, in recent years General Motors recalled more than 1.4 million vehicles which could catch on fire even after being parked and left in a garage.

Jim Adler & Associates urges all Texans to practice car fire safety. And if you’ve been injured in a car fire, notify an experienced car fire accident lawyer today.

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