New cars give responders new problems

Aug. 9, 2012 at 10:20 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Cars now cars are safer and more energy efficient but firefighters say those same improvements are making their jobs harder and more hazardous.

The paradox has caught automakers between opposing needs, USA Today reported.

Consumers want tougher steel that hold up better in crashes, electric-powered hybrids for fuel efficiency and air bags and other features so ensure safety.

These technologies can cause problems for first responders.

Tougher steel frames are harder to bend or rip up so passengers inside can be retrieved. Hybrid cars carry high-voltage batteries. Air bags not set off in a crash can be cut into with explosive force.

Dealing with these problems cost emergency personnel precious minutes that can mean life or death for someone in a damaged car or truck.

Automakers are responding, USA Today said.

Kia donated 32 Borrego SUVs with the latest technology to a fire academy in California so crews could practice extraction methods. An industry group, SAE International, is working to develop standardized labels for hybrid and electric cars to quickly show the type of vehicle first responders are dealing with.

SAE is also working to put all the information firefighters need to know about currently made cars into a quickly usable reference.

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