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How often do cars really explode from impact?


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I perform accident investigates for the NY State Troopers and for many law firms and District Attorneys. We have investigated hundreds of accidents and only one ended up in an explosion. That happened when a drunk driver crossed the double yellow line in a F550 Flatbed and went head on into a Dodge Neon. We did have a few fires caused by a collision.

 

Remember the Ford Pinto in the 1970’s? I worked for a Ford dealer back then when all the Pintos were recalled because supposedly the car would explode when hit in the rear during a collision. I never personally heard of one exploding but it was all over the news.

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This is a good story…

 

About 12 years ago the local police and District Attorney were trying to build a case against a man that drove his car while under the influence of alcohol and pot, got into an accident and killed the passenger. It was a high profile case. The man claimed that he lost his right rear wheel which caused him to lose control, slide into a tree, which consequently killed the passenger. The entire wheel, rear drum and axle detached from the rear differential. This was a 1980’s Camaro.

 

The lawyer for the defendant obtained a metallurgist engineer who was going to testify that the axle broke from metal fatigue and separated from the rear differential, which was the cause of the accident.

 

The local police asked for my help on the case and we obtained a warrant to examine the car. I disassembled the entire rear differential along with the drive shaft. I concluded that the force from hitting the tree (right front, almost head on) drove the driveshaft back which broke the right rear axle and that’s why it separated the wheel and axle. In other words, the axle broke as a result of the accident, not before the accident. This was in direct contradiction to the engineer’s report.

 

We went to court and I brought my reports along with life size illustrations of the undercarriage of a car. I put the illustrations on an easel and gave my testimony. One of things that I pointed out was; if the axle did break while the car was in motion before the collision, then why did the axle land 100 feet down a hill in the opposite direction from where inertia should have put it? The defendant’s attorney questioned me over and over, but I knew he could not make a dent in my testimony.

 

After that, the defendant broke down and admitted that the reason he lost control was because of drugs and alcohol and driving too fast. He then admitted that right after he crashed he got out, saw the wheel and axle hanging off, picked it up and through it down the hill.

 

The trial made the papers and after that I started getting calls from District Attorneys, Law Firms, State Troopers and other police departments. To this day I still get calls.

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