A report from SP Sweden (now RISE) assesses data on fatalities due to post-collision fires in road vehicles, based on data from Sweden, the USA and the UK. The data suggest that around 5% of road accident deaths are caused by fire in all of these countries.
Collisions are the cause of less than 4% of road vehicle fires, with the principle cause being mechanical or electrical failure, but collision fires are responsible for over half of vehicle fire deaths. The report suggests that most of the deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, because smoke incapacitates occupants fast enough to impede escape. Over 30 vehicle fires per hour occur in the USA, causing around 300 deaths and 800 injuries per year. The report states that the large number of fatalities in vehicle fires is related to the low fire performance requirements for materials used in road vehicles, with legislation “flaccid” compared to that applicable in railways, ships or aircraft.
“Post-collision fires in road vehicles, a pre-study” Ochoterena et al., SP Sweden report 2016:55 http://ri.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:944435/FULLTEXT01.pdf and summary in International Fire Fighter Magazine, March 2017 http://iffmag.mdmpublishing.com/iff-magazine-issue-53-march-2017/