Safety Features Hurt Rescue Efforts

safety features hurt rescue efforts

Car fatality rates are at historical lows, thanks in large part to steady increases in vehicle frame strength and rigidity. But as Newsweek reports, tougher vehicle frames make it harder for rescue teams to reach trapped passengers after a crash. Highway rescuers must purchase ever-more-expensive extraction tools to keep up with increases in frame strength, and are forced to work deeper and deeper into the "golden hour" between the accident and emergency-room treatment. Rescuers also have to be careful not to puncture hidden pressurized-gas cannisters (which fire side-impact airbags) or hidden electrical lines, requiring extra time to peel away interior plastics before extraction can begin. With rescue times climbing past the ten-minute mark and rescue equipment costing even the smallest towns upwards of $50k, there's a case to be made that stronger is not always better. Add this to our own reporting on the downsides of strengthened roof crush standards, and the automobile safety picture becomes increasingly… complex.

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  • JuniperBug JuniperBug on Mar 25, 2008

    I'm with you, Landcrusher. I always got a chuckle knowing that if I were to drive my Jetta without a seatbelt (not that I actually did - I take enough stupid risks), it would be considered unsafe and would get me a ticket. Yet my other (perfectly road-legal) ride was a 155 hp engine with 2 wheels and a seat, that could hit 100 MPH in second gear. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need to cool it with the whole "unsafe car" witch hunt; we need safer drivers, not safer cars. I would definitely buy a zippy, fuel-efficient car that weighed under a metric ton. Did someone say 1st or 2nd gen GTI? Something like that seems like a nice compromise between fun, safety and economy to me. Or for $50k you could buy a T-Rex: carbon fiber body, 3 wheels, controls and seating of a car, pulls over 1.0g on the skidpad, and has a 200 hp motorcycle engine powering the huge rear tire in the back. Oh, and keep the overpowered, under-protected motorcycles. I say keep us speed-freaks surrounded by as little metal as possible; it forces us to evolve or die.

  • on Mar 25, 2008
    Car fatality rates are at historical lows, thanks in large part to steady increases in vehicle frame strength and rigidity. Fatality rates are lower. Yes, I'm certain there is a point of diminishing returns, but it doesn't appear to have been reached yet.

  • Yankinwaoz Yankinwaoz on Mar 25, 2008

    Hmmm... reminds of the statistics thrown out whenever someone wants to justify medical care costs. Such as "Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America!!!!" Sounds scary, until you think about it logically. Something is always going to be the "Leading cause of death in America". As soon as they cure heart disease, then something else will become number 1. You can't win.

  • Madcat Madcat on Mar 25, 2008

    Here's a reprint of an interesting article discussing the difficulty firefighters have experienced trying to cut through Subaru B-pillars. link I don't mind at all having these beside me in my WRX.