On the 28th of June 2018; Lagos, Nigeria witnessed one of the most horrific fire incidents in recent times. A fuel tanker carrying about 33,000 litres of gasoline (petrol as we call it) had brake failure, spilt its content on a busy road that had traffic, exploded, burnt many (more than 54) vehicles and most of the occupants in them.
I felt very bad about the situation because some people might never see their loved ones again due to the negligence of duty, ignorance of some of our regulatory bodies and because we do not care any more as humans.
Gasoline is extremely volatile and easily combusts, making any leakage potentially and extremely dangerous. Liquid gasoline itself is not actually burned, but its fumes ignite, causing the remaining liquid to evaporate and then burn (Wikipedia). Whoever is handling gasoline should be a safety certified personnel.
I thought for a minute, this could happen to anyone, anywhere and the question is "what would you have done if it happened to you?"
First, let me paint a scenario.
Imagine a very young family, with the father driving and the mother seated at the passenger's seat, two young children seated at the back with seat belts strapped on. The windows are wound up to protect them from being robbed by traffic hoodlums, the car doors are locked and the child lock for the rear doors are activated because of the kids seated at the back.
So when this type of family encounters such a problem, the father might have a "panic attack" and might find it difficult to unstrap himself, unstrap his wife and the children, unlock the doors and move away quickly from the vehicle before the spilt gasoline gets to his vehicle and explodes. Remember, gasoline is extremely volatile.
Wearing seatbelts, locked doors and wound up windows could trap accident victims and reduce their chances of exiting the vehicle when it catches fire or plunges into a river. Though the record of such deaths is significantly low, the number of lives lost in the June 28th, 2018 Otedola Bridge fire incident as described above should not be ignored.
The Panic Button
Hazard light buttons have a basic function which is to warn other road users that you are a temporary hazard. For example, if you have broken down on the side of the road, or you are changing a tyre. If you are being towed, you should use your hazard warning lights. But this button can function more than the purpose it serves.
When an accident occurs (a vehicle somersaults or plunges into a river for example), sometimes the victim(s) who perhaps had his/her seat belt on with the doors locked could still be alive but might be in shock or have little strength to release his or her seat belt (let alone find a sharp object to cut it), unlock the doors to exit the vehicle in a few minutes before the accident escalates.
The hazard button could serve multiple functions by designing it in such a way that when you press and hold it for 5 seconds, the seat belts automatically unstrap, the windows automatically winds down, all the doors automatically unlock giving the occupant(s) the chance to exit the vehicle within a few seconds.
If an ejection button is available in jets, I see no reason why this could not be designed and developed in vehicles. Please help sign the Petition here to make this happen.