The August 2016 death of a New Jersey man traveling on a Vermont interstate should stand as a horrific warning that cars can catch fire after an accident. Alexander Romanow, of Brick, died after his 2006 Chevy Tahoe veered into a median, struck several trees, and burst into flames. Passenger Jane Romanow survived, but Alexander, the driver, was trapped in the vehicle.
Highway vehicle fires in the United States have gone down significantly since the 1980s, when there were on average about 440,000 a year. In 2013, there were only 164,000 highway vehicle fires reported, but these caused 300 deaths, 925 injuries and an estimated $1.1 billion in direct property damage.
If your vehicle is on fire, here is what the National Fire Protection Association recommends you do:
- Pull over as quickly as it is safe to do so, being sure to use your signal as you make your way to a safe location off the road such as the breakdown lane or rest stop.
- Once you have stopped, turn off the engine.
- Get everyone out of the car. Never return to a burning car for anything.
- Move everyone at least 100 feet from the burning car and well away from traffic.
- Call 911.
It is also a good idea to signal approaching traffic of the danger, whenever possible.
Of course, the situation is much more complex when a passenger is trapped in the vehicle. A would-be rescuer must assess various dangers, such as:
- Spilt fuel that could ignite
- Downed power lines that could ignite spilt fuel or electrocute you as you approach
- The danger that tires, bumpers and the gas tank might explode
- The heat radiating and noxious smoke emanating from the vehicle
- The danger to the trapped passenger of being moved versus the danger of staying in the burning vehicle
Would-be rescuers must proceed with extreme caution by calling 911 before attempting a rescue and then donning protective garb, including gloves and a scarf to protect against the heat. A successful rescue may require:
- An ADC fire extinguisher
- A window-breaking tool
- A knife capable of cutting a seat belt
It is a very good idea to carry these items in your trunk or back seat so they are easily accessible in case you have a car accident or come upon a vehicle fire while out driving.
If you’ve been injured in a car crash in Bergen County or anywhere in New Jersey, Seigel Law is ready to help. Contact us online or call 201.444.4000 today for a free consultation and case evaluation.