What is the danger of Fuel Fed Fires?
Fuel tank design and placement are very important to minimize injuries during accidents. Almost everyone remembers the infamous Ford Pinto. The Pinto had a fuel tank mounted behind the rear axle. This position allowed for dangerous and often explosive consequences in rear-impact accidents.
Similarly, there are vehicles with gas tanks mounted on the sides of the vehicle outside the structure of the frame. These “sidesaddle” tanks also leave the vehicle vulnerable to impact in a collision. The overall safest positioning of a gas tank is between the front and rear axles of the vehicle. However, manufacturers didn’t always follow this guideline and many vehicles do not provide the proper structural protection for the tank. Collisions with these vehicles can lead to fuel-fed fires.
Also, it is not always the location of the fuel tanks that can lead to fuel fed fires. Design defects related to fuel fed fires can involve several different vehicle systems. The design issues can relate to issues of fuel filler cap design, fuel line design, fuel tank design, and also include fuel pump design. Fuel systems should be designed to maintain their integrity during reasonably foreseeable accidents so that occupants do not lose their lives in otherwise survivable accidents. If the occupants can survive crash forces without serious injury, so should the fuel system.
Simple shielding of the gas tank, known to the automobile manufacturing industry for years, can prevent fuel fed fires.
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