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Crash safety ratings are a big selling point – who's going to buy a car with just two stars? In pursuit of salable collision performance, automakers have turned to stronger metals and better construction, and consumers can reap the benefit by choosing from a panoply of highly rated vehicles. A problem arises, however, if that safety design is ever called upon to perform. Lots of vehicles now sport high strength steel in critical areas like roof pillars, and while it certainly helps protect occupants, it could hinder rescue crews. Tools that once made quick work of crashed vehicles are now having trouble shearing through modern cars. Not only that, modern cars have lots of airbags around the cabin, and there are also worries about cutting high-voltage electrical cabling in hybrid or electric vehicles. Rescuers need to know where all the potentially hazardous equipment lies within a vehicle so that they can safely retrieve human cargo without creating a further tragedy.

What was once a simple matter of cutting a roof off to get passengers out can now become a sawblade-eating saga that takes double or triple the time. Taking more time at an accident scene has repercussions that put recovery or even survival at risk by delaying treatment. Automakers are aware of this, and they're working with public safety entities to provide training and information. Schematics and build details of vehicles are being made available to first responders by the non-profit group COMCARE Emergency Response Alliance. The ability to research where and how a car should be taken apart in an emergency could buy injured people critical minutes, so Ford, for instance, is asking for a dialogue with rescue crews and the makers of their tools by offering a look at the construction of the 2009 F-150. Upgrades to rescue tools are also necessary, but the flip side of the harder rescue is that the death rate from passenger car accidents is historically low. So buy that five-star vehicle and try not to hit anything. Thanks for the tip, Juan!

[Source: Houston Chronicle]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Here's my question: How safe is safe enough? In our ever-evolving government nanny-ism, they will have us driving in tanks before long. (which might be cool if they were still gun-equipped).

      I think that the gov't should start to concentrate more on the PROBLEMS that cause many accidents: People are not paying attention and not taking motor vehicle operation seriously. My friend works at the local M-B dealer, and it's hard to overlook the fact that most Benz's in the body shop are front end wrecks....so who is yapping on the cell phone and drinking Starbucks, reading the WSJ, and not paying attention to the road. I would think with all that wonderful technology they could AVOID hitting stuff.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Let me get this straight... You're criticizing the role of the, and I quote, "ever-evolving government nanny-ism" yet you advocate that "the gov't should start to concentrate more on the PROBLEMS that cause many accidents: People are not paying attention and not taking motor vehicle operation seriously."

        So instead of a "nanny" government requiring safer vehicles, you'd rather have the same government regulate/prohibit cell phones, drinking liquids, eating food, radios, babies, magazines, and other reasons why people aren't paying attention?

        ...Nice argument.
      • 7 Years Ago
      And now, you know the rest of the story.

      Interesting. every action has a reaction.
      • 7 Years Ago
      That was indeed interesting!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Two words:
      Ejection Seat.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Two words as well:

        na, jokes aside. some things on my mind:

        1. the cutting tools should also be upgraded.

        2. car manufacturers should also tell/train rescuers where to cut. perhaps a "cut here" sign with dotted line should be put on wherever it's applicable.

        3. if you crash your *very safe* car in a typical collision, I don't think it would be a 'wreck' to open the door and walk away. EuroNCAP deduct points if doors don't open properly after a crash test (I dunno about US NCAP though).

        4. cars should be made smart enough that if it's in an accident and if it's written off. If it is, the power supply should be cut off automatically.

        5. and that reminds me of that final destination movie, where there's this woman stuck in the car, and the rescue worker is cutting off the door. the airbag popped and she banged her head against the pipe sticking though the head rest.

        6. car engineers should come up with a design that the doors can easily be unhinged and removed even if its shape is distorted.

        7. hybrid batteries should be put in the engine compartment and not under the rear passenger seat (Toyota or MB did that in one of their concepts - I forgot which one).

        8. hydrogen tanks... there won't be any mass-produced hydrogen cars out there for at least another 3-4 decades. btw, hydrogen cars aren't really clean - the emissions produced by making hydrogen from methane or water is 88% of a normal car.

        Lastly, always wear your seat belts! airbags aren't complimentary to safety system in cars, as they only assist seat belts!*

        *read your car manual
          • 7 Years Ago
          "4. cars should be made smart enough that if it's in an accident and if it's written off. If it is, the power supply should be cut off automatically."

          I don't know about all auto makers, but when you're in a wreck in a Ford the fuel will automatically shut off. It will not allow the car to start until you flip the fuel shut off switch on.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I know it isn't a simple fix, but some solutions that could be presented are upgrading saws to be made out of carbide, and retraining rescue crews to deal with high voltage cables.
        • 7 Years Ago
        For a rescue person to rescue you, you have to still be alive. I'd rather be injured and in pain while they figure out how to dismember my vehicle, than be dead....
        • 7 Years Ago
        They just had a story in the local news about the extra training our local fire department is going through for this very thing. But I ask, what is worse, having a hard time getting you out of your car after an accident, or having a hard time scrapping you off of your dash board.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Aren't the high voltage cables in the lower parts of the vehicle, not the roof and pillars? Aren't the pillars and posts the places cut and pried by rescue personnel. Most of the time, the + cable to the electronic system is cut, preventing fire and electrocution. A circuit breaker tripped by an accelerometer should take care of EVs and Hybrids. Am I missing something here?
        • 7 Years Ago
        I would also think they'd disconnect the battery first before cutting anything, right?
        • 7 Years Ago
        NNNGh! Quiet! You're ruining the pants-messing hysteria!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well if the Chinese have their way, they'll be sending us cars that can be opened with a kitchen can opener after an accident.
        • 7 Years Ago
        ... which will come in handy, cuz if you're in that Chinese car when it crashes, what they'll find will look like it came from a soup can...
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