The incidence of three recent fatal collisions in Southern Ontario where vehicles caught fire ought to raise our awareness. No modern technology is available that can save the life of a vehicle occupant who becomes trapped in a post-collision fire. Federal safety standards in the U.S. and Canada have existed for decades which test the likelihood that a vehicle may catch fire after an impact. Historically much concern was expressed over fires occurring in Ford Pintos and in Ford Crown Victoria police units when they were rear-ended. But no such concern has been expressed in current years as post-impact fires appear to be increasing in frequency and not just from a vehicle being rear-ended. Unusual occurrences such as frontal impacts or side impacts into trees or poles appear to involve post-impact fires, something that was rare decades earlier. The three collisions that occurred this week are typical of the unusual occurrences.
On Saturday, August 7, 2021 a single vehicle reportedly went out-of-control on Blyth Road near Walton, Ontario. The vehicle slid into a ditch and they struck a tree. No photos were made available to ascertain the location of the direct damage on the vehicle nor was there any information about the severity of that damage. These minimal facts could help to establish whether the commencement of a vehicle fire was preventable. We only know that the driver of the vehicle died at the collision scene.
In another collision on August 12, 2021, two vehicles collided at the intersection of Wonderland Road and Glanworth Drive in the south-west area of London, Ontario. A van was totally consumed by the post-impact fire and one occupant was reported to have died. Again, no information was made available whether this occupant died as a result of exposure to the fire.
And a third collision occurred in the early hours of August 13, 2021 on Highway 401 near Dufferin Street in Toronto. A car reportedly struck the rear of a stopped or disabled tractor-trailer and the car caught fire. The driver of the car was reported to have died at the collision scene. But there was no information whether the fire was the cause of the driver’s death or he died from the impact forces.
The sources of post-impact vehicle fires are never revealed to the public. Nor is any mention made that vehicles fires should not be acceptable and may be an indicator of vehicle defects. If three fatal impacts occurred and the steering wheel was found detached from the steering system there is no doubt that there would be considerable uproar and demands for answers. Yet vehicle fires, that could be the source of similar fatalities, seem to pass by beneath the public’s attentional radar.