True story or anti-smoking urban legend?

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A truck driver was following in his truck behind his wife and kids, who were in the family station wagon, when the car in front of the station wagon flicked a cigarette butt out the window. The still-burning cigarette ignited a gas tank leak and exploded the station wagon as the truck driver looked on helplessly. Anyone else hear about this? No mention of where it happened or who was involved, although I should say I got this second hand, not from a news source. I was told it was in Reader's Digest some years back. I do not believe they are known for researching their stories to make sure they are true. I have tried searching at Snopes.com, but couldn't find anything on it.

thanks
 

Answers and Replies

Mech_Engineer
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It sounds to me like the story has been somewhat embellished for a couple of reasons-

1) Even if the vehicle had a gas leak AND the cigarette somehow ignited the leak, it would have just caught on fire, not exploded in a fiery cataclysm. It's a common myth that a car will explode if fire gets near the gas tank and there's a leak, but the fact is all of the gasoline has to be dispersed in a proper range of air/fuel values for an explosion to occur.

2) As a general rule, a smoldering cigarette has a tough time igniting gasoline, even if the cigarette is thrown into a pool of the stuff. I think Mythbusters might have shown this when they tested out some movie myths; they tried to ignite gas leading to a car, but couldn't get the cigarette to ignite the gas, even when puffing on the cigarette.
 
Ivan Seeking
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It is nonsense. As ME pointed out, you would be lucky to even light gasoline with a cigarette; not to mention the added difficulty if the vehicle is driving down the highway.

What's more, how would the fire spread to the gas in the tank while the car is moving?

It is an urban legend.
 
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Thanks for the replies, Ivan and ME. I had been thinking along similar lines that the details of this story had been 'enhanced' to drive home the point of how wicked and thoughtless smokers are. I'm still curious to know whether this apparent urban legend (assuming it isn't true) is widespread. It's not an image you'd easily forget, so if Reader's Digest published this story, there are probably lots of folks out there who have heard about it. Sort of like the one about the exploding cell phone at the gas station...although I think that was circulated via email rather than RD.

So if anyone else has heard this story, I'd like to know how you heard it. And of course, if anyone knows that the story is in fact true, maybe they could direct us to the news story.
 
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Ivan Seeking
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I could see a burning cigarette flying into a window and igniting the seats or carpet, but it wouldn't burst into flames.

Readers Digest is not a source that I would use. It is more for entertainment than anything.
 
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Moonbear
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I could see a burning cigarette flying into a window and igniting the seats or carpet, but it wouldn't burst into flames.
I've known people who reported that first hand...flicked the cigarette out the driver's window and it somehow got sucked right back in to the rear window and landed in the backseat. Left a nasty burn on the back seat by the time they pulled the car over to get it out, but no bursting into flames and destroying the whole car.
 
Myth. Assuming the cigarrete even lit the petrol (which is HIGHLY unlikely), it would have been IMPSOSSIBLE for it to match the speed of the car and reach the tank. Not only that, but the conditions in a gas tank make it impossible for it to blow up, as there is not enough oxygen.
 
arildno
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I've known people who reported that first hand...flicked the cigarette out the driver's window and it somehow got sucked right back in to the rear window and landed in the backseat. Left a nasty burn on the back seat by the time they pulled the car over to get it out, but no bursting into flames and destroying the whole car.
Cigarettes should not be flicked out.
Proper cigarette disposal procedure is to extend the cigarette holding hand backwards well "out of range" of the open window , and only then let go of the cigarette.



Others have the oversimplistic notion that cigarette smoking shouldn't occur, neither within a car or elsewhere. :smile:
 
HallsofIvy
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Was that intended as sarcasm? There is no safe way of throwing a cigarette out of a car. In some parts of the United States, during high forest fire danger, it is a felony to throw a cigrarette out of a car.
 
arildno
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Was that intended as sarcasm? There is no safe way of throwing a cigarette out of a car. In some parts of the United States, during high forest fire danger, it is a felony to throw a cigrarette out of a car.
We have such glacial conditions here in Norway that I didn't think of that.
I don't think we have any such regulations here, anyhow I rarely drive since I use public transport.
 
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Haha.

Its definately a myth. As far as smokers being "wicked" and "Thoughtless" , i take a small amount of umbrage at the idea that we are this savage race of ignorant people, on par with barbarians.

For the betterment of society as a whole, i can't agree more that smoking going away is a good thing. However our nation was founded on principles that roughly translate to "Don't tread on me." Furthermore, so long as there are girls, beer, and party drugs, there will be ciggerattes. Humans in general have a propensity and attraction to sin that can't be denied without denying what we are as people. I think our worst "Rebels" as western civilizations go, are those who smoke ciggerates and cheat on their taxes. I can deal with that. Get into peoples buisness too much, and thats how revolutions start. Its a habit that our goverment has gotten into a bit to much of late, and im generally distrustful of most goverment interferance in peoples lives, no matter how worthy the cause.
 
Moonbear
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Cigarettes should not be flicked out.
Proper cigarette disposal procedure is to extend the cigarette holding hand backwards well "out of range" of the open window , and only then let go of the cigarette.



Others have the oversimplistic notion that cigarette smoking shouldn't occur, neither within a car or elsewhere. :smile:
Or one can use their ashtray. I'm as much of an opponent of smoking as anyone, but there's no point in perpetuating myths. As Halls points out, flicking a cigarette out the window is a fire hazard for starting forest fires, just not so much car fires.
 
Borek
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Even if the vehicle had a gas leak AND the cigarette somehow ignited the leak, it would have just caught on fire, not exploded in a fiery cataclysm. It's a common myth that a car will explode if fire gets near the gas tank and there's a leak, but the fact is all of the gasoline has to be dispersed in a proper range of air/fuel values for an explosion to occur.
I recall reading somewhere that German firefighters did a test - they put 100 passenger cars on fire. Of those only 2 exploded. But I am not sure if it is the real story, or one of those 85% made-up statistics :wink:

Borek
 
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Haha.

Its definately a myth. As far as smokers being "wicked" and "Thoughtless" , i take a small amount of umbrage at the idea that we are this savage race of ignorant people, on par with barbarians.
Ah, but you are! :rofl:

Seriously, though, people do get a little too caught up in this anti-smoking frenzy, I think. "Holy war" might even be an appropriate name for it. I assume from what you said that you are also in the US. I'm not wild about breathing ciggy smoke while I eat, but banning smoking in bars?? Jeez. I wonder when some modern-day Carrie Nation will pop up and tour the country snuffing out people's cigarettes.

Moonbear said:
Or one can use their ashtray
I would think so too. On those rare occasions when I have smoked in my car, I have almost always had a small styrofoam drink cup with some water in it for disposing of the butt. I may have flicked a couple out the window, but I don't like doing it because that is litter.
 

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