In June 2019, Mr. A, who prefers to remain anonymous, experienced his first car accident in 30 years of navigating the roads of Thailand. Surviving the initial accident was miraculous enough. But surviving the explosion that followed shows how even the simplest feat of engineering can be a life saver.
It was midnight when Mr. A set out alone on a journey from Bangkok to his home in Saraburi, one he’d taken many times before. But on this particular night he simply drove himself too hard. “I wasn’t feeling well and I took some antihistamine medication after dinner, which can cause drowsiness,” he explains. The accident happened around two hours into the journey. “I did feel tired but I didn’t want to pull over because it was only 5km away from home. I thought I could make it.” He was in a hurry to get home, traveling at 150km/h when he fell asleep at the wheel. The trailer in front of him was going about half his speed when he rear-ended it.
The next day Mr. A learned that the crash had caused the brake system of the trailer to malfunction, and that it only came to a stop when it ran out of speed around 500 meters away from the crash site. By the time Mr. A managed to get out of his Subaru, the other driver was no longer at the scene of the accident. “That was the reason I couldn’t see anyone else when I came out of the car,” he says.
“I was awoken by the impact of the crash,” Mr. A recalls. The accident had taken place on a quiet stretch of forest road at around 2am. There were no witnesses, and nobody there to help him.
Each of the SRS airbags in his Subaru Forester XT had deployed, cushioning the impact. “I think I survived partly because of the airbags,” he says. “The windows were all broken but I didn’t have any injuries; the airbags must have prevented any injuries from the broken shards.”
“I thought I was dreaming when I felt the impact of the crash,” Mr. A continues, “so I got out of the car to see what had happened.” It was like waking from a nightmare. Initially, he was surprised and stunned that no one else was there. ”It was just me and my wrecked car.”
Because he wasn’t injured, Mr. A decided not to call an emergency crew, choosing instead to call a friend to pick him up. He sat by the side of the road to wait: it was then that he noticed fire coming from the car’s engine.
“It looked like someone had lit a candle there. I thought to myself that it would probably extinguish itself. However, seconds later, the car burst into flames and it exploded.”
“My car was all charred,” he recalls. “People who saw my car would think that I would not have survived.”
“Miraculously, I only had a small bruise on my arm,” Mr. A says. “However, my friend insisted that I go to the hospital.” He had taken pictures at the crash scene. “After I showed the nurses the picture of my wrecked car, they rushed me into the emergency department for a full-body check-up and X-ray. Everything was fine.”
A number of features in his Subaru played a role in helping Mr. A escape uninjured, including Subaru’s signature Boxer Engine, which is designed to slide below the passenger cabin in the event of a front-on collision. All Subarus come with three-point seat belts with pretensioners designed to hold the driver firmly in place in the event of an accident. “I think the airbags and seat belt also helped reduce the impact of the crash on me,” he observes.
“Additionally, the body of the car was quite strong. Even after the crash, the door was not jammed and I could still open it,” he recalls. This point is crucial for several reasons. First, Subaru’s Ring-shaped Reinforcement Frame, created from high-strength steel, is renowned for its ability to absorb the force of a crash and protect the people inside the vehicle. With its rigid side door beams, Mr. A’s Subaru Forester not only offered solid protection, but retained its structural integrity, enabling him to get out of the car without anyone there to help.
That’s the other reason Mr. A was lucky to be alive. “If the door was jammed, I would probably have died due to the explosion that followed,” he says.
Not only did he survive, he was able to go back to work immediately after the accident. In the time since then, Mr. A has made a vow to himself to be more careful when he’s behind the wheel. “Be mindful of your limits and avoid driving if you are too tired,” he observes.