We’ve seen it in action movies so many times we’ve come to expect it: a car crashes into another car or goes off the road, landing upside down in a ditch and giving the inhabitants a narrow window to get out before the car explodes.
But how many of us have seen such a sight in real life? Occasionally a burning car will make the news, but they’re only newsworthy because they don’t happen that often. And burning is not the same as exploding.
Hollywood storytellers usually mention the gas tank exploding when warning characters to get out/away from a vehicle that’s been in a crash – as if the mere presence of a gas tank in a car crash necessarily means it will explode, even though they were riding along in the vehicle just moments before without any concern for the gas tank bursting into flames.
In fact, it takes a specific set of circumstances for a vehicle to explode. Car engines run by transforming liquid gasoline into its gas form, then using a small flame to ignite the gas and oxygen to feed the flame, which powers the vehicle. In order for a car to explode after a crash, you need all three of these things to combine in the right place and in the right order outside the engine: gasoline in gas form, a flame, and oxygen to feed the flame.
Because gas is confined to the gas tank, it’s not likely to get enough oxygen to cause an explosion, unless something punches a hole or rips a tear in the gas tank – which is possible in a crash. Collisions can throw things (rocks, road debris, chunks of metal, etc.) into or against gas tanks and exhaust tubes, potentially causing tears and/or leaks.
After that, any number of things can create enough heat to ignite the gas. As our vehicles have become more and more electronic in recent years, the increase in electrical wires means a tear in the wrong place can create an electrical spark, which can be disastrous if it reaches the gas fumes.
We also have to keep in mind that a car burning intensely is not the same as a car that has exploded. When we see a car engulfed in flames, it might be tempting to assume the gas tank has exploded, when the reality is that it’s more likely that another component of the vehicle caught fire and the flame quickly got out of control.
Recent vehicle standards require the passenger cabins of cars to have flame-retardant materials, but “flame-retardant materials” are not necessarily materials that won’t catch fire – it just means it’s more difficult to get them to catch fire. But once they do ignite, they can burn intensely, and there are other materials in the car (including foam and plastic) that will burn easily once a flame catches, turning the car into a giant ball of very hot flame that might make it look as though the car exploded.
Accidents can happen anywhere at any time. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to the negligence of others, you need to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
CONTACT the Lieser Law Firm today for a FREE case evaluation.