Monday, February 18, 2013

Why you Shall not Mix Smoking and Driving?

In case you happen to be among those smoking-addicted drivers who cannot refrain from lighting a cigarette when behind the wheel, at least make sure there are no flammable objects around you first. There are number of accidents, when car explosion, caused by a lighted cigarette, caused health injuries and even death of the driver or passengers of the vehicle. Note that the causes might be as quite obvious, as not so, when the explosion has been originated by the seemingly innocent household substances. Here is the list of the recent accidents, appeared in a press, when car explosion has been originated from the cigarette.  

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Gas fumes and a lit cigarette caused an explosion that sent a 27-year-old man to the hospital August 8, 2012 in Twin Falls, ID. The owner of the vehicle admitted the explosion started after he entered the car and lit a cigarette. The car had recently undergone work for a gas leak, and that was probably has not taken care of completely during the maintenance service.

November 3, 2008, a driver has had a lucky escape after his liquid gas powered car exploded into a fireball when he lit a cigarette while at the wheel. Peter Tidbury's Peugeot 607 was badly damaged in the explosion, with door panels blown out and pieces of windscreen hurled 50ft. Mr. Tidbury, 55, from South-East London, escaped with minor burns after the fireball singed his face, hands and legs and melted the lining of his jacket. It is thought that a leak in the pipe from the filler to the fuel tank allowed gas to seep into the car where it was ignited by the cigarette.


February 29, 2012, an 82-year-old homeless man, Stanley Kowalski, with emphysema, accidentally caused a car explosion when a cigarette he was smoking ignited gas from a leaking oxygen tank inside his vehicle. Four people were injured in the blast in Hackensack, New Jersey. The homeless man suffered superficial injuries while two police officers and Fire Department Lt Stephen Lindner had minor injuries. The man used about a tank of oxygen a day and was storing them and his other possessions in his car, which he seemed to be living in. There were seven tanks in total in the car. Witnesses say the three consecutive explosions were the force of projectile missiles. The homeless man told officials he thought he had turned off the tank after using it when he decided to smoke a cigarette. All that was left of the car - a 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis - was a charred frame.

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This year, February 2013, an elderly Indianapolis couple was killed in their car after a passenger lit a cigarette near a medical oxygen tank causing it to explode. Ronnie Joe Pratt and his wife, Deborah, both 62, died Sunday after their 1999 Chrysler Concorde burst into flames on Interstate 70 near Centerville, Ind. Thomas Barnham II was driving the duo, and another passenger, Tina Brooks, when the incident occurred. Witnesses dragged Barnham and Brooks out of the blaze before the vehicle exploded again, but it was too late for the husband and wife who were trapped inside. Wayne County Sheriff Jeff Cappa said two oxygen cylinders were in the car and that one of the survivors said the vehicle caught fire after a cigarette was lit.

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Cleaning Products

March 6, 2009, a female driver from Memphis failed to pay attention to the flammable objects in her car and she lighted a cigarette that made the vehicle explode. The driver was a cleaning woman carrying flammable cleaning products in the vehicle. Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin explained that the woman was sitting in the car when she lit a cigarette and caused "a vapor-type flash." Witnesses at the scene heard "a loud boom" that made all the vehicle's windows explode. Following the unfortunate incident, the woman suffered first- and second-degree burns on her face, arms and neck.

Hair Bleach

March 25, 2010, a 19-year Jenny Mitchell who worked as a mobile stylist with the Sleek and Chic salon was driving to her parent's house in her silver Mini Cooper when she decided to light up a cigarette. Unfortunately, the whole car was filled with fumes from a leaking bottle of hair bleach in her passenger foot-well  The flame from the lighter/cigarette with the fumes and air from small opening from the car window caused an explosion as the as the whole car got engulfed in flames resulting in Jenny's death. It is believed the leaking bottle contained chemical hydrogen peroxide which is used for hair bleaching.

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Car explosions and fires add the real meaning to the statement that smoking can be deadly. Not sometime in the future from the slowly but steadily deteriorated health, but tomorrow when you lit your cigarette on your way to the office. It can be deadly to yourself, to your passengers, and to those who you share the road with. Sometimes, the death toll might be even much higher. In Texas City, Texas, the Federal Bureau of Investigation blamed a cigarette for probably igniting an ammonia nitrate explosion in 1947, causing the worst industrial disaster death toll and fire disasters in U.S. history. The explosion caused nearly 600 deaths, 380 hospitalizations longer than two months, 4,100 casualties, and damage to more than 90 percent of the city's buildings at a cost of more than $4 billion. In France, a single lighted cigarette thrown from a moving car in 1999 ignited a fire in the Mont Blanc Tunnel, a major thoroughfare between France and Italy, causing 39 deaths and over $1 billion in losses to the region.

What is the risk? The risk is probably quite low. Taking in account, that an explosion requires both a fuel and an oxidizer, there should be special conditions to cause the explosion –sensitive medium. The gasoline definitely contains fuel, but does not contain oxidizer. Therefore, gasoline cannot explode by itself. However, a mixture of gasoline and oxygen has all the capabilities to explode. Yes, once you get a nice mixture of gasoline and air, you've got all of the ingredients for a fuel-air bomb.  It requires only to ignite the process, and the cigarette, or dropped Zippo lighter, for example, can serve that. Yes, the risk is relatively low, but do you really wish to take it?

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