Among the best reasons to buy a new car are the safety improvements that have been made across the industry over the past decade. Yet safer cars for drivers and passengers haven't meant an improvement for first responders. On the contrary, the added complexity and new technologies employed in modern vehicles routinely frustrate firefighters attempting to save occupants involved in a crash.

According to USA Today, part of the problem facing rescuers is just knowing what hazards might be lurking beneath the sheetmetal. From high-strength steel that's difficult to cut to airbags hidden in every nook and cranny, rescuers face not just frustration, but real danger. Like high-voltage systems in hybrids and electric cars, some of which can be difficult to tell apart from conventional models, according to the report.

To complicate all of this, firefighters are often left in the dark by automakers, and when they do get to practice on vehicles, often those are older models. But things are changing, as industry groups, including the Society of Automotive Engineers, are working on addressing some of these new challenges. The engineering group is close to recommending a new standardized labeling system for electrified vehicles, according to the report.

Scroll down to watch the accompanying video, and click here to read the entire story.


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  • 18 Comments
      Master Austin
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wish the article would have been a bit more detailing actually... the issue is mainly Boron steel thats being used in the "A" pillar of vehicles. Volvo and Ford have been on the forefront of using that specially in the pillars of their (P2/D3-4) platforms and the "jaws of life" are not strong enough to cut through it, therefore local EMS have had to retrofit their equipment to allow for the much new larger and more powerful "Jaws of life 2.0". But this isn't to say it's an issue, its just local cities having to invest on the equipment quickly enough to deal with those types of pillars.
        007 Vodka Martini
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Master Austin
        I have shot video of the fire depts failed to crack a Flex within two minutes with the jaws. Thanks Volvo, we sold you! Proud owner of a D471 Limited.
        Stang70Fastback
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Master Austin
        Same for Subaru. I remember reading a few months back how Subaru has been using boron for years in their pillars (why they get such good crash test ratings) and that the jaws simply don't work on them.
      eliotsmeliot
      • 2 Years Ago
      Taking a long time to get an injured person out of the car is better than quickly being able to remove a dead body. I think the trade-off is worth it.
      me
      • 2 Years Ago
      The down vote bandits are running amuck today
      brian
      • 2 Years Ago
      I somehow doubt that the high-voltage lines for any hybrid or electric vehicle will have been run through the roof pillars or doors...
      Harold O
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yes Boron steels are the big problem and specs for the Jaws have been changed to get bigger and stronger .Boron steels are not new but they are hardened to a high level. Do a search on Jaws specs. An earlier problem on cars was a gas cylinder of some kind for absorbing crash energy but could explode in a fire .I think they're gone now.
        dukeisduke
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Harold O
        The gas cylinders you mean would be the ones used in the older 5mph bumpers. There's been at least one documented case of one on a Volvo cooking off and launching the front bumper into the legs of a female firefighter, in California. Mythbusters did a segment about it, interviewed the firefighter in the documented case, and torched a similar Volvo to try to bust the myth - and actually, they confirmed it.
          toddmccollam
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dukeisduke
          The Mythbusters did no confirm the exploding bumper myth. The bumper melted before the shocks exploded, and even taking the shocks out and heating them in various ways they could not get them to explode. They held off on calling the myth busted because there was at least one documented case of a bumper shock exploding, but they could not replicate the incident.
      Carbon Fibre
      • 2 Years Ago
      KIA FTW
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      toldtubes
      • 2 Years Ago
      This article fails to adress more basic issues - like barely being able to SEE the vehicle you've been called to rescue when it's dark, raining, the vehicle is way into the trees/over a bank, etc. I'm pretty good at identifying vehicles, but under adverse conditions, and after a vehicle is crashed, the clues can become very obscured. Having had a fellow rescuer lose his ring finger after being crushed by the Jaws of Life while cutting an A-pillar, I'll have to pass on the BS about just getting more powerful Jaws. In his case, the jaws spread while cutting and rapidly twisted around the pillar, slamming his finger into the car.
      carguy1701
      • 2 Years Ago
      Huh. One of the things Mercedes has mentioned in brochures for the current S-class is that the A- and C-pillars are marked at specific points for first responders to cut through without deploying any safety systems.
      The_Mell
      • 2 Years Ago
      Rescue sheets are an easy way to help emergency responders. A simple piece of paper placed at drivers sun visor showing where airbags and other important parts are. The idea is advertised for some years now by automobile associations, firefighters etc and quite some carmakers have reacted but it is still not mandatory as far as i know. Here is for example a pdf with sheets for Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge (euro) models: http://www3.jeep.de/pdf/Chrysler_Jeep_Dodge_Rettungsdatenblaetter.pdf Text is in German but the pictures show the idea pretty good. Here a list of links to manufacturer pages can be found (German language): http://www.adac.de/infotestrat/ratgeber-verkehr/sicher-unterwegs/rettungskarte/default.aspx?ComponentId=32955&SourcePageId=49490
        ScottT
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The_Mell
        I would think in many cases you're going to need to get into the car to actually get to and read that sun visor.
      007 Vodka Martini
      • 2 Years Ago
      Funny, new news? I worked on this with Ford and the U293 launch in 2003 and 2004. Slow news day?
      Phil B
      • 2 Years Ago
      I was wondering when this issue would start to garner some media attention...
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