Car fires account for 17 percent of all reported fires and 13 percent of all civilian fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. More than two-thirds of vehicle fires result from mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions, compared to only 3 percent from collisions or rollovers.
More than a quarter-million vehicle fires occur every year.
“In 2004, vehicle fires caused more deaths than apartment fires,” said NFPA President James M. Shannon. “The public needs to be more aware of this serious fire safety issue and take measures to lessen the risk of an incident.”
AAA is urging drivers to get a comprehensive vehicle maintenance inspection if they have not had one in the past year and to be especially alert to damaged wiring and loose electrical connections, worn or blistered fluid lines, leaking connections, severely worn brake components, and damaged heat shields.
“Although drivers may believe fires occur mostly from collisions, this is not true. Many more are caused by failed vehicle components that could have been maintained or repaired prior to causing or accelerating a fire,” said AAA President Robert L. Darbelnet.
To reduce the risk of a vehicle fire, AAA recommends the following:
* Check for wear and tear. Watch for fluid leaks under vehicles, cracked or blistered hoses or wiring that is loose has exposed metal or has cracked insulation. Have any of these conditions inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
* Be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, or to a visible plume of exhaust coming from the tailpipe. A louder than usual exhaust tone, smoke coming from the tailpipe, or a backfiring exhaust could mean problems or damage to the high-temperature exhaust and emission control system on the vehicle. Have vehicles inspected and repaired as soon as possible if exhaust or emission control problems are suspected.
If your vehicle catches fire, firefighters recommend that you stop, pull to the side of the road, and turn off the ignition. Do not open the hood because more oxygen can make the fire larger and exposes you to a sudden flare-up.
Make sure everyone gets out of the vehicle, move at least 100 feet away and call for help. Never return to the vehicle to fight the fire yourself.