In fact, out of more than 35,000 fatal car crashes in 2005, only about 550 involved deaths due to burn injuries. Out of all traffic accidents, fatal and non-fatal, around 3300 people received non-lethal burn injuries.
In fact, the biggest risk to people trapped in a car after an accident isn’t fire—it’s being injured while being moved by well meaning Good Samaritans who are afraid that the car will catch fire.
Of course, if you should happen upon a burning car accident, it’s important to rescue as many people as possible from the vehicle. But if the car is not actually in flames, it’s better to wait until professional help arrives before trying to move anyone. You could inadvertently worsen a neck or back injury which could lead to paralysis. Paramedics have special collars and backboards that they use to protect the neck and spine from further injury.
Instead of trying to drag accident victims from the car, the best thing to do is to talk to them in calm, reassuring tone of voice and urge them to stay as still as possible until help arrives. Reassure them that most cars do not burn after a crash and that they should be safe in their vehicle.
Burning car accidents are the rule rather than the exception in the movies and television shows that shape our cultural beliefs and opinions. But they are not the reality of most accident victims, and fear of a car suddenly catching fire should not guide your actions if you should ever find yourself at an accident scene.