Ever since the first automobiles took to the road more than 100 years ago manufacturers have been attempting to prevent the risk of impact-related fires.

THE FUEL SYSTEM:

In an effort to prevent a vehicle from becoming engulfed in flames when it's involved in an accident, car manufacturers have focused their attention, mainly on the design, position and protection of the vehicle's fuel tank.

Some of these fuel tank improvements include:

  • The structural design.
  • The type of compounds used to manufacture them.
  • The different tank mountings.
  • Removal of sharp objects that could rupture the tank.
  • Relocating the tank to protected areas.
  • Shields and barriers placed in order to protect the tank from impact.
  • Bladder liners placed inside the tanks.
  • Fuel tank fire suppression systems.

Despite these and many more beneficial improvements, the risk of fire still remains.

Fuel escaping from a damaged fuel tank is ONE area that has the potential to create a fire, but a SECOND area also exists in the modern motor vehicle.

The high pressure of the fuel being transferred from the fuel tank to the fuel injection system in most modern vehicles should be the second area of concern.

The predominant method of metering fuel into the engine of a gasoline-powered motorcar was the carburettor, but this system has now been surpassed by the widespread use of fuel injection. Since the 80s, and early 1990s, almost all gasoline-powered motorcars sold in first world market regions like the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia have come equipped with electronic fuel injection.

The primary functional difference between fuel injection and carburettors is that the fuel injection system will atomise the fuel by forcibly pumping the fuel at high-pressure through small nozzles located in the inlet manifold to add the fuel to the airstream, whilst a carburettor relies on the air entering into the motor to create a vacuum. This vacuum then sucks the fuel through the jets in the carburettor and adds it to the airstream.

The fuel injection system has evolved significantly since the mid 1980s. The design of the current system provides an accurate, reliable and cost-effective method of metering the fuel and providing maximum engine efficiency with cleaner exhaust emissions.

The flow and high pressure required by the fuel injection system is maintained by an electric pump situated at the rear of the vehicle, submerged inside the fuel tank. Therefore, if the delivery pipe transferring the fuel from the tank to the engine is ruptured in an accident, the pressurized gasoline will spray everywhere and greatly enhance the risk of fire.

That reveals the two areas responsible for the escape of gasoline in accidents:

1. Fuel escaping from a damaged fuel tank.
2. Fuel spraying everywhere when the pressurized system is ruptured.

THE TWO ELEMENTS:

There are two elements (not including oxygen) required to establish a vehicle fire – the fuel and the sparks responsible for igniting the fuel. If you can stop these two elements from becoming united, you will successfully prevent a fire and save lives.

Unfortunately, the motor industry has overlooked the importance of the second element.
The isolation or elimination of any potential area capable of producing the sparks hasn't been addressed with as much concern as what the containment of the fuel has.

The "Vehicle Safety Shutdown" system would reduce or eliminate at least one of these two elements in MOST accidents.
In the section "The Solution" the functions of the VSS is described.

Because of the volatile nature of petrol, a car crash fire is looked upon as being one of the risks that is associated with motor vehicle travel.

THE STATISTICS:

We have all become very complacent and this complacency doesn't change until the victim becomes a family member, or somebody known to us.

It is difficult to establish just how many people around the world each year, survive the impact of an accident, only to be trapped and incinerated when the vehicle becomes engulfed in flames.

Because most deaths that occur in a fiery car crash are recorded as "death by impact" and not a death involving a "fiery road accident," the statistics for the number of people killed in car crash fires is extremely low. This low number is considered acceptable, and referred to by many as insignificant.

For years, these low statistics have led the representatives of the "Automotive Industry" and "Government Road Safety Councils" to believe that the current fire prevention equipment and policies are adequate, so no further changes are warranted.

If we are ever going to see improvements to the fire prevention equipment in motor vehicles, then a change is going to have to be made to the manner of recording the statistics.

Regardless of the severity of the injuries received in an accident, if paramedics were able to attend to a victim, the injured person would have some chance of SURVIVAL or even REVIVAL. Once a vehicle erupts in flames, just about any chance of survival is eliminated and then the death is a result of asphyxiation or incineration, but would probably be recorded as impact related.

Any person that is deceased when removed from a burnt out vehicle should have their death recorded in the statistics for the number of persons killed in a "fiery road accident."

In the United States, it is estimated that hundreds of people die this way every year and thousands more receive burns, ranging from serious – moderate – minor degree.

It is acknowledged that because of the severity of their injuries, a large number of these seriously burnt persons will also pass away. These people who pass away at a later date should also be included in the statistics for the number of persons killed in a "fiery road accident."

Although there hasn't been any statistics available in Australia since the year 2001, the number would be significant.

From a compassionate point of view, it is understandable why most of these deaths are recorded as an impact related "road fatality", rather than a death resulting from a "fiery road accident".

Unfortunately, this compassion has been responsible for the distortion of the statistics. The true number of people killed in car crash fires is much greater than what the statistics indicate but without accurate records it is difficult to prove.

We don't make the above statements through lack of compassion, to the contrary. In order to reduce the number of people killed or injured each year, the magnitude of the problem must be acknowledged.

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