Browse Publications Technical Papers 2008-01-0256

Fire Occurrence in Frontal Crashes Based on NASS/CDS 2008-01-0256

The basis for this analysis was FARS 1979 to 2005 and NASS/CDS 1997 to 2004. For these years, there were 12,493 cases in FARS where fire was coded as the most harmful event. In NASS there were 227 cases with major fires, 87 of which were in frontal crashes.
The paper shows the annual trends in FARS with regard to overall fatalities and fatalities with fire as the most harmful event by direction of principal vehicle damage. The NASS/CDS files are used to determine the location of fire origin. The FARS data show that crashes with frontal damage are the most frequent crash types where fire is the most harmful event. In general, the most harmful event fire rates have declined with the overall fatality rates in FARS. However, in recent years the trend in fires with frontal damage has been on the increase.
Cases in NASS were examined to identify patterns for major fires in frontal crashes. Engine compartment fires were by far the most frequent. The most frequent pattern in the NASS crashes with fires was pre-crash steering/braking followed by run-off-the-road and an impact with a large fixed object. Engine compartment fires with fatalities frequently involved severe frontal damage and occupant entrapment.


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