TAMPA, FL – Capt. Clint Roberts makes his living cutting accident victims out of hideously mangled vehicles, but even he could hardly believe it when two people in a 2007 mid-size car survived a head-on crash with a full-sized pickup last year. The Ford Fusion’s reinforced steel construction probably saved the lives of the 18-year-old driver and his 16-year-old passenger. But Roberts said it gave his Hillsborough County Fire Rescue crew fits as they tried to free them last November, according to the Associated Press and Yahoo News.


Because hydraulic cutters couldn’t shear the roof posts, rescue workers had to turn to heavy-duty electric saws, replacing blade after blade as they dulled on the rugged material.

Today’s cars save lives by cocooning motorists in reinforced alloys, impact-absorbing crumple zones, and as many as a dozen air bags. But in interviews with the Associated Press, rescue officials and experts from around the United States said the new technology is also hindering extrication of injured people, increasingly forcing crews to work deeper into the critical “golden hour” between accident and treatment by emergency room doctors. On many 2005 and later cars, an extrication that once took 10 or 15 minutes can now take twice that or longer.


To catch up, counties and cities are spending tens of thousands of dollars — if they can afford 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.

Later this year, the nonprofit group COMCARE Emergency Response Alliance, with cooperation from automakers, is introducing a single Web site that will offer schematics and safety specs for most cars on the road. Rescue workers could flip open a laptop computer on the way to a crash scene to find out about the construction of the car, placement of air bag canisters, and other details.