Motor Vehicle Accidents

Allan Newell brings his firefighter expertise to discussions on notable car wrecks, risk compensation, the car industry’s built-in-hazards, the Mont Blanc tunnel fire, El Camino de la Muerte, collection fuel from crashed tankers, and what to expect when rescue responders have to cut you out of your crumpled Volkswagen. Plus: car crashes in movies.

Music: “Blame the Accident” by The Invasives. Used with permission.
Visit ‘n’ The Invasives on Facebook

Charity of the Week: MADD



16 Responses

  1. Oooh! Oooh! Finally, a chance to flaunt my hard-won Rosetta Stone knowledge!!

    αυτοκίνητο is pronounced aftokinito.

    Side note: Since αυτή (she) and αυτοί (they) are both pronounced aftí, it makes the “Listen, now spell!” portion a guaranteed fail for me. -_- The “ee” sound can be made with about 10 different combinations of letters (it seems), so while Greek is fairly simple just from a vocab standpoint, trying to spell can be crazysauce.

  2. El Camino de la Muerte – Top Gear also did a show where they travelled this route. One of their best episodes over all.


  3. The “good” Crash movie was based on a book by JG Ballard, author of The Empire of the Sun. Apparently it’s a real mind bender and one to avoid if you’ve got a weak stomach.

    Years ago I heard of an accident in Europe but can’t corroborate it about two drivers, in foggy conditions, driving with their heads out of the windows so they could see better, going in opposite directions – they banged their heads together and both died. Guessing it’s probably apocryphal but it’s vaguely amusing/gross so I thought I’d mention it.

    In the news… On the 3rd of December, 2012, a tunnel collapsed in Japan causing the deaths of at least 9 drivers:

    Finally, I’d just like to say that was your worst Irish accent ever, when you were discussing one of the first auto accidents. Unless it was supposed to be British overlords at that point. 😉

    Really interesting episode, guys, and thanks for the expert commentary on just precisely how amazingly dangerous cars are (regarding all the things in them that can go bang at the wrong moment).

  4. I have been on a road like the Camino del Muerte, but this road was in India, north of Delhi in the Himalayas. There was no guard rail and an almost shear drop of a couple of thousand feet down a rocky/rubbly cliff. The road was barely big enough for two small cars, let alone a bus (which I was in). It was a switch-back road with blind corner after blind corner with only a few 10’s of meters visibility at best. I was on the road in the middle of the night (i.e. 1:00am), in the pouring monsoon rain, and rocks were falling down all over the place. We periodically had to get off the bus and remove large rocks from the road by hand. At one point, the road had washed out completely from a landslide and our bus had parked right in front of the rubble from the slide. Suddenly, the drive yelled at us to get back into the bus and he backed up the bus about 50 meters and the whole road where we had been seconds before just gave way and fell a couple of thousand feet down the side of the mountain. I will NEVER forget that night and the joy I felt when we finally saw the open, completely flat plains that surround Delhi.

    India’s roads are notoriously unsafe – overcrowded, poor quality cars, trucks poorly maintained/overloaded, poorly designed and maintained roads, lack of laws regarding vehicle/road safety, no seat belts, lots of drunk driving, unlicensed drivers, etc… – and almost 400 people die in car accidents (aka incidents) every day on average.

    1. WTF?!?!

      This is like a choose your own adventure book, where all but one eventuality has you dying a horrible death and you totally fluked out making it all the way to the end in one piece!

  5. Movie car crashes: The Blues Brothers! In their massive chase scene they wrecked over 100 cars made up to look like Illinois cop cars.

  6. the bit on the first motor car accident with the woman falling out, is the funniest thing I’ve heard on here since the bootleg coal miners sketch.

  7. I don’t know if they make use of this material in Canada, but about 10 years ago when I took drivers ed. classes, they played the education film “Red Cement II” (apparently the sequel to a predecessor that was deemed not gory enough) which showed footage of horrible accidents in an attempt to scare new drivers into practicing safe driving habits.

    I distinctly remember 2 images from the film- An emergency responder picking up bits of brain off of the pavement, and a separate accident in which the steering wheel was forced half way through the driver’s head.

  8. If you’re going to talk about Crash (Cronenberg/Ballard), then the many, many, many recordings of “Warm Leatherette” should be mentioned, too. And also, considering the intermission song, the Dead Milkmen’s “Taking Retards to the Zoo” and/or “Bitchin’ Camaro”:

    Also, holy cow, are there a lot of videos of spectacular Grand Theft Auto crashes out there.

  9. Things I now know after watching all those vids:

    1. Don’t ever ride a motor cycle
    2. Don’t ever drive on icy roads

    Man, that SUV that just lost it on the middle lane, clipped the van to its right and then drifted over to the left to be cleaned up by the semi was horrific!

    Also, serendipitously I received one of those chain-style emails today with pictures of a crash that I checked out and apparently it’s real. Quite amazing:

  10. In response to electric cars without sound, a few electric cars make sound by default. The Fisker Carma makes a buzzing noise when it sits idle, and gets louder as the car moves.

    People say it sounds like a spaceship, I just regret it doesn’t sound like the Jetsons car.

    Also, a guy in Japan redid his Prius to make noise, just for safety.
    He made it sound like an F1 car, probably the loudest thing with 4 wheels.

    As for risk assessment, I remember someone saying.. I can’t remember who, that if you wanted to have safe drivers, you would put a 10 inch spike on the centre of the steering wheel. No one would drive over 10 km/h

  11. The cost of vehicle safety… (aka Fight Club narrators job)
    In a previous life I used to be a Senior Engineer for an automotive company which won’t be named. One of the tasks I had was being part of the team for developing the costs for the introduction of the passenger side airbag. The model in question already had a driver airbag and many lives had being saved with this feature. If the airbag deployed you would have died as that was how it was designed, deploying for only accidents would would likely lead to a fatality. (This concept is different in different countries btw.)
    However…modifying the dash assembly was tricky with the glovebox in the way and a fair amount of retooling was required to fit the larger passenger side airbag assembly into the top of the dash in a tidy manner that still functioned and didn’t weaken the dash assembly. We put together the costing and sent on the figures for all the engineering work with the end result that all up it was going to cost the customer about $600 to the price of the car. (Vehicle plants with high efficiency and that are highly automated are expensive to modify.)
    A marketting decision was made that the passenger side airbag would be delayed until the next model as the expected increased sales did not cover the costs of introduction and the company didn’t want to lose any money if it could be avoided.
    I don’t know how many people died because of this decision however it was the number #1 selling family car in the country at the time…and cars with dual airbags cost a lot more.
    I don’t work as an Engineer anymore…