Concerns grow over road safety after rash of fiery crashes

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A rash of fiery traffic crashes in recent weeks has some people around the metro area concerned.

The combination of high speed injuries and burns often pose challenges for both patients and doctors.

Traffic crashes involving fires or explosions can cause injuries similar to what doctors see in a war zone.

After a series of fiery crashes around the metro area in recent weeks, often involving large tractor trailers, trauma doctors say stabilizing patients becomes urgent, as they are more likely to face multiple threats to their lives.

And although some believe hot weather contributes to more fiery crashes, doctors say more traffic on the roads boosts the likelihood of catastrophic crashes.

"When you add in a fire or explosion then we deal with injuries of burns or inhalation injuries," said Dr. Justin Green, medical director of trauma services at the University of Kansas Hospital. "Many injuries occur within confined space within vehicles. That adds a whole other degree of significant injury to patients that already might be badly injured."

Size and speed of vehicles also contributes to the severity of these injuries, as some fiery crashes have involved semi trucks.

And fire often creates toxic smoke in vehicles loaded with plastics and synthetic materials.

Burns can take a long time to heal, and combined with other blunt force or penetrating trauma, can extend recovery time, making fiery crashes all the more dreadful.

Just after this report aired, a semi caught fire along eastbound Interstate 470 near Lee's Summit just before Pryor Road and 50-Highway just before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Firefighters called it a vehicle fire, not a crash, and did not report any injuries. Traffic was at a complete stop in all lanes of eastbound 470 while firefighters put out the blaze.