Sturdy Cars Make it Harder for Rescuers
TAMPA, FL – Capt. Clint Roberts makes his living cutting accident victims out ofhideously mangled vehicles, but even he could hardly believe it when two peoplein a 2007 mid-size car survived a head-on crash with a full-sized pickup lastyear. The Ford Fusion’s reinforced steel construction probably saved the livesof the 18-year-old driver and his 16-year-old passenger. But Roberts said itgave his Hillsborough County Fire Rescue crew fits as they tried to free themlast November, according to the AssociatedPress and Yahoo News.
Becausehydraulic cutters couldn’t shear the roof posts, rescue workers had to turn toheavy-duty electric saws, replacing blade after blade as they dulled on therugged material.
Today’scars save lives by cocooning motorists in reinforced alloys, impact-absorbingcrumple zones, and as many as a dozen air bags. But in interviews with the Associated Press, rescue officials andexperts from around the United States said the new technology is alsohindering extrication of injured people, increasingly forcing crews to workdeeper into the critical “golden hour” between accident and treatment byemergency room doctors. On many 2005 and later cars, an extrication that oncetook 10 or 15 minutes can now take twice that or longer.
To catchup, counties and cities are spending tens of thousands of dollars — if they canafford it — to buy more powerful equipment that can cut through newer cars’reinforced steel and the lighter, tougher exotic metals used in roofs, posts,and doors.
Laterthis year, the nonprofit group COMCARE Emergency Response Alliance, withcooperation from automakers, is introducing a single Web site that will offerschematics and safety specs for most cars on the road. Rescue workers couldflip open a laptop computer on the way to a crash scene to find out about theconstruction of the car, placement of air bag canisters, and other details.