A study conducted by the NSW Rural Fire Service, in conjunction with the CSIRO and BCRC (Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre), has discovered new cars are more dangerous in a bushfire than their all metal predecessors.
Similar tests conducted in the 1960s saw occupants stand a better chance of survival when placed in similar bushfire conditions due mainly to the higher percentage of metal components on cars from that era.
Newer cars with increased glass areas and plastic body panels are less likely to provide protection to occupants trapped inside their vehicles. They are also more likely to trap occupants once the fire has passed due to plastic door handles melting in the fire’s radiant heat.
In the simulated tests, cabin temperatures rose as high as 300 degrees celsius, making survival chances slim to say the least, though the old fashioned woolen blanket over occupants could reduce heat from the exposed glass by up to 50 degrees.
Although the trials suggest newer cars are not as safe as older ones the AFAC (Australian Fire Authorities Council) has urged anyone caught in a bushfire to follow some simple procedures to maximise their chance of survival:
Anyone requiring further information on bushfire driving can contact the AFAC or their state’s bushfire authority.