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Modern Cars are Safe for Drivers but Not for Rescue Operators

Modern cars have features that help ensure drivers' safety. However, those features make rescue operations more dangerous. The new steel in modern cars is hard to cut and the high-voltage cables in hybrid cars are difficult to disconnect. Today, users demand light-weight cars, better fuel efficiency, and reliable safety features.

Ironically, the car designs that achieve these goals and have the best safety characteristics are also known to increase injury risk for rescuers who respond to motor vehicle accidents. High-strength steel, which is stronger than rescuers' hydraulic rescue cutters and spreaders, air bags and the oil tanks cars are hazardous for first responders. These features can also hinder removing victims in an accident and rushing them to hospitals.

Car manufacturers are working closely with the fire departments and coaches to train rescue operators in new technologies and practices and to educate them in person or online about the potential risks involved in removing crash victims from newer vehicles.

Industrial groups are also imposing stricter safety labeling and training guidelines. They recommend standardized labels for the inside and outside of all hybrid and other electric vehicles so that rescue operators understand what type of vehicle they are dealing with in an accident. Besides labeling, a quick-reference guide is also being developed that will list every hybrid and electric car or truck model and its hazardous features.

Per the rescue operators and trainers, the latest technology needs to be examined further. Rescue operators need to be able to judge the accident quickly and accurately. It is difficult to understand the differences between a hybrid and a conventional vehicle in an accident and being able to distinguish the hazardous features of a vehicle during a crash is critical for safety.

Source: USA Today, "Cars safer for passengers - but not first responders," Chris Woodyard, Aug. 09, 2012

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