Insurance Institute of Highway Safety Hosts Rescue Training - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Insurance Institute of Highway Safety Hosts Rescue Squad Training

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The sound of breaking windshields, screeching tires and the Jaws of Life shattered the usual quiet of the Greene County countryside Thursday afternoon.  All the noise came from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and it will benefit everyone who drives, or rides, in a car.

In conjunction with State Farm, fire and rescue crews from across Virginia converged on the IIHS for some training on new cars.

"This is a huge opportunity for not only this fire departments but also the manufacturers of the equipment as well to make sure it field tests properly," said Chuck Sulkala, member of National Auto Body Council.

"The preliminary results from today's tests show that the dummies had very little risk of injury, which means that the people were probably okay and the vehicle structure held up pretty well," said Becky C. Mueller, Research Engineer.

The newest Toyota RAV4 is currently being put through its paces, and the IIHS says it's a keeper.

The new car has new safety features - like side airbags and enhanced crumple zones. While these additions are good for drivers, they can pose problems for rescue crews when things go wrong behind the wheel.

"In previous times in our junkyard scenarios we usually work on very old cars, cars that have been abandoned and they're usually 10, 20 years old before we get ahold of them," said William Spencer, of the Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad.

Older cars usually have only two airbags, and their locations are marked. The new ones have many more, but their locations are often a mystery.

"Nowadays, because people want better and smoother cosmetics inside the vehicle, we have to know ahead of time where those airbags have the potential to be at," said Jimmy Mehring, Charlottesville firefighter.    

"We also have to deal with multiple airbags. Like, so far in this car we've counted up to 13 airbags in this Mercedes," said Spencer.    

The new cars being ripped apart fell victim to Hurricane Sandy. Many of these flooded cars are also being used by local rescue squads for training. They will replace older ones from junkyards that may not have all the new safety features.

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