New cars are safer for passengers but more dangerous for responders

Motor vehicle safety has improved immeasurably from the days of optional car seat belts and exploding Ford Pintos. However, the same features that have made drivers and passengers safer have made it much harder for first responders to access accident victims.

A report in USA Today details some of the problems that first responders face in rescuing victims from newer model cars and trucks.

  • Air bags can be dangerous to responders if they didn’t inflate during the crash; many new cars have multiple air bags for both drivers and passengers, and the locations vary.
  • Batteries in hybrid vehicles vehicle may have up to 500 volts running through some cables – compared to the 12 volts produced by batteries in conventional cars.
  • High-strength steel is used to make cars lighter and more efficient, and is actually tougher than standard steel, making it harder for firefighters to cut through.
  • Keyless ignitions can make it hard to tell if the vehicle’s engine is running – which poses a different set of dangers for first responders.

Read the full article on how firefighters are learning to use jaws tools and other rescue implements on newer cars, or see an example of how it can be used: earlier this year, firefighters safely rescued 3 injured people from a Portland car accident involving a hybrid vehicle.