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Columbus, Ohio

Beware: Car Fires Happen More Often Than You Think

Columbus, OH auto accident attorneyCar fires are rarely anticipated by Ohio drivers, so they may come as a shock. Last month, it happened to a Columbus woman who was driving a 2015 Kia Soul, according to ABC6.

Luckily, she was able to escape minutes before the vehicle became fully engulfed in flames.

"We were sitting there watching it burn, you could hear the airbags pop," the woman told ABC6.

Only months prior to the incident, Kia recalled nearly 400,000 hatchbacks due to fire risks associated with the catalytic converter. However, the woman's engine model was not listed in the recall.

How often do car fires happen?

According to Consumer Reports, car fires happen more often than we think, and mechanical defects are often to blame.

This is has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate about 3 million Hyundai and Kia models regarding the risk of fires not related to crashes. The automakers have documented more than 3,000 incidents and are in full compliance with federal regulators.

Tesla's Vehicle Safety Report was referenced by a company spokeswoman after several videos and pictures of their electric cars went viral on the internet,  In the report, the automaker said, "From 2012–2018, there has been approximately one Tesla vehicle fire for every 170 million miles traveled. By comparison, data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation shows that in the United States there is a vehicle fire for every 19 million miles traveled.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that there were 171,500 highway vehicle fires each year from 2014-2016 throughout the US. More than 142,000 of those fires involved passenger vehicles, according to FEMA — an average just shy of 400 fires each day. Annually, this resulted in:

  • 345 fatalities
  • 1,300 injuries
  • $1.1 billion in damage

The National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) reports that only five percent of vehicle fires were caused by crashes. However, crashes were the cause of 60 percent of fatal highway vehicle fires.

From 2014-2016, mechanical failures were found to be factors in 45 percent of car fires — with electrical defects accounting for 21 percent and misuse of flammable materials accounting for 13 percent.

Safety measures you can take to avoid injury or death

Fires can happen quickly and without warning. That's why it's best to be prepared to take action in order to avoid a serious crash, injury or death. Consumer Reports suggests following these steps:

  1. Pull over and shut off the engine to stop the flow of fuel.
  2. Exit the car and get your passengers out as fast as possible. Get about 100-150 feet away from the car and don't go back to retrieve personal property.
  3. Call 911 immediately. If you're not able to, ask another motorist to call for you.
  4. Don't attempt to put out the fire unless you have easy access to a fire extinguisher and know how to use it correctly. When doing so, it's important to keep a safe distance from the car. Only extinguishers approved for Class B or Class C fires should be used. Check the label on the extinguisher.
  5. Avoid opening the hood or trunk if you believe there is a fire. Doing so can let in more oxygen, allowing the fire to get bigger.
  6. After exiting your car, be aware of your surroundings in order to avoid being hit by a car.

The risk of car fires can be mitigated by doing the following:

  • Get your car regularly serviced by a professional mechanic. Ensure that any leaks are repaired, your car's oil levels are adequate and the engine temperature is normal.
  • When transporting gasoline, only carry small amounts and keep a window open for ventilation.
  • Avoid carrying gas cans and propane cylinders in the passenger compartment.
  • Avoid parking your car where flammables or dry grass are in contact with the catalytic converter.

Warning Signs

The NFPA says to watch out for these warning signs:

  • Smell of burning rubber or plastic
  • Fuses that blow frequently
  • Wires that are cracked or loose
  • Oil or fluid leaks
  • Loose oil cap
  • Rapid changes in fuel or oil levels
  • Unusual increase in engine temperature

If you or a loved one was injured in a car fire, the automaker or a parts manufacturer may have failed to place a safe product on the market. That's why it's crucial to discuss this matter with an experienced Ohio car accident attorney who can launch a thorough investigation and advocate on your behalf.

To set up a free case evaluation and explore your legal options, contact the Michael D. Christensen Law Offices today.

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