By David Colmans
While watching a cable newscast I noticed a story from Southern California about a group of men who pulled an elderly motorist from his Model A Ford that caught fire following a traffic crash. Then the Good Samaritans left the scene. Well done, men.
Unlike the California situation where a wreck and a very old car were involved, the typical cause of vehicle fires includes mechanical or electrical failure. The usual culprits are leaks of flammable liquids or oils, breaks and worn-out parts.
The danger of vehicle fires is very serious. Looking into this issue, we have a magnified problem in the Southeast especially in this summer heat.
According to The National Fire Protection Association, most highway vehicle fires occur annually in July and August.
In fact, 49 percent of U.S. highway vehicle fires are attributed to these top three causes. What is even more disturbing is that unlike the California incident, there may be more than one person in the vehicle, often times including an elderly individual, young children or both.
What is important is that vehicle owners should be vigilant and have their vehicles inspected and properly maintained especially during the hot weather months.
Here are a few ideas to reduce the likelihood of highway vehicle fires and help your vehicle last longer.
• Engine Coolant - Maintaining the coolant at proper levels during hot summer weather. The vehicle owner's manual provides additional instruction and it's a good idea to consult with an auto technician.
• Engine Oil Level - Motor oil is the life-blood of the engine because it provides lubrication for moving parts and assists in engine cooling. Maintaining the oil at the proper level reduces the chances of engine damage or failure.
• Belts and Hoses - Hot weather puts additional stress on the engine's belts and hoses. Gaskets and seals may leak, hoses might deteriorate, and belts could become brittle. These factors could cause oil consumption to increase. A failed hose or broken belt may cause the engine to overheat. It is a good idea to regularly inspect the belts and hoses for unusual wear and cracks.
• Keep It Clean - A good idea to reduce the likelihood of an engine fire is to have the engine degreased. That will eliminate the build-up of oil and grease.
• Easy Does It - All vehicles should be driven easier during hot weather. Especially during heat advisories, motorists should try to avoid heavy traffic, idling, high speeds and, at all times, aggressive driving.
There is one more thing to consider for safety sake. Insurers recommend families practice house fire drills to make sure that everyone in the family can exit safely. It stands to reason that it's a good idea to have your family practice a fast evacuation of all your vehicles.
In the midst of a very stressful situation, such as a vehicle fire, seat belts can become hard to quickly release due primarily to the anxiety of the occupants. That's way practice is a good idea.
David Colmans is the executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. Contact him at 770-565-3806 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.