As a former Navy SEAL, Clint Emerson is equipped with the skills to get him out of all kinds of scary situations. He’d knows exactly what to do if he ever fell victim to a carjacking, for instance. And thankfully, Emerson wants to share his knowledge with the public, so that others can keep themselves safe, too.
As a former Navy SEAL, Clint Emerson is equipped with the skills to get him out of all kinds of scary situations. He’d knows exactly what to do if he ever fell victim to a carjacking, for instance. And thankfully, Emerson wants to share his knowledge with the public, so that others can keep themselves safe, too.
You’d never know just by looking at Emerson that he served for nearly 20 years as a Navy SEAL. Members of this particular special operations force are known as “the cream of the crop” in the military. After all, they are responsible for catching or destroying major threats and operating in enemy territory on intelligence missions.
But before individuals are even accepted into Navy SEAL training, they first must prove themselves capable. And this means completing a series of punishing tests to determine their physical and mental strength. After this, applicants have to pass the SEAL Physical Screening Test, which is designed to really put them through their paces.
As part of the screening, candidates must take part in a number of timed physical tasks. These include running 1.5 miles in under 11 minutes, completing 50 push ups in 120 seconds and doing ten pull-ups in two minutes. And only if the applicant demonstrates that they have the required stamina will they have the chance to become a Navy SEAL.
Once a candidate has completed the grueling training and qualified as a SEAL, they learn multiple specialist skills that enable them to immobilize the enemy, evade capture and generally dodge danger whenever and wherever it may arise. Needless to say, then, Navy SEALs are some of the steeliest individuals in the world. And yet you might say that Emerson looks more like an office worker than a highly trained warrior.
But being able to blend into the background isn’t exactly a bad trait for a Navy SEAL. In fact, it helps them to go unnoticed by the enemy until they are ready to strike. So it’s safe to say that Emerson’s ordinary, clean-cut demeanor belies his animal-like instincts to fight the bad guys and come out on top.
That being said, the former Navy SEAL insists that he’s pretty much an Average Joe in most ways. Emerson spent his early years in Saudi Arabia, where his dad was employed by Saudi Aramco – the state-owned oil company – as a civil engineer. But he later returned to the United States and attended high school in Texas.
Thanks in part to Emerson’s upbringing in the Middle East, he dreamed of joining the SEALs. And that was despite the fact that he didn’t seem to fit the bill. He told BuzzFeed in 2018, “I was no incredible athlete, nor was I some genius. I was your average kid growing up in Texas who just had a lot of passion to go down this path.”
But according to Emerson, there was one quality that set him apart from his peers. He explained, “I was a troublemaker at heart – I still am – and I enjoyed getting into trouble. But more importantly, I enjoyed not getting caught. That somehow extended into an adult profession of roaming the planet, causing trouble and not getting caught.”
And so, Emerson took what he would later describe as a “leap of faith,” joining the Navy while still at college in the hope that he’d progress to special ops. He told BuzzFeed, “I wanted nothing to do with being a sailor. I wanted nothing to do with those big gray ships. I knew since I was ten years old I just wanted to be a SEAL.”
While Emerson was at his Navy boot camp, then, he put himself forward to become a SEAL. And he passed the subsequent physical assessments before going to medical corpsman school for three months. After that, Emerson headed to San Diego to complete his Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
BUD/S is a 24-week training course that’s designed to develop wannabe SEALs’ physical and mental stamina as well as their leadership talents. Recalling the program, Emerson told BuzzFeed, “First thing they had me do while I was in my dress blues was go [and] hit the surf zone, get wet and sandy. That is the big welcome to BUD/S… Getting sandy is part of your life from there on out.”
As part of BUD/S training, SEAL candidates are put through the ringer in a phase of training known as pool comp. And it was this challenge that filled Emerson with the most dread. During the test, you see, trainees are asked to crawl along the bottom of a deep pool. But as they do so, their instructors are tasked with making the experience as stressful as possible.
Emerson explained to BuzzFeed, “While you’re going back and forth, the SEAL instructors are above doing shark attacks. And, of course, they wait until they see all the bubbles come out. Then they come down, taking your air away, ripping your mask off, maybe thump you in the head, take your weight belt off to mess up your buoyancy and then start pulling other straps and stuff apart.”
The former SEAL continued, “Once they get done, then it’s on you to put yourself all back together again in a proper order. If you don’t do it in the right order, well, then, you’re out; you fail. You have to do all this with whatever air you have left in your lungs. And of course, if you go to the surface, it’s considered quitting, so you’re out.”
Despite Emerson’s anxieties, though, he passed pool comp and the rest of his BUD/S course. However, the young man was still not yet a SEAL. The candidate also had to go to a special operations medical school to continue to medics training. And he then attended jump school for a month to learn how to be a paratrooper.
Training finally completed, Emerson joined SEAL Team 3. However, his future in special ops was still uncertain. He told BuzzFeed, “Once you check in [with a team], you’re on a probationary period where your peers are watching you and ensuring that you are the kind of guy they wanna work with. You have to prove yourself.”
But Emerson must have impressed his colleagues, as he eventually earned his SEAL trident and was finally placed into a platoon. He told BuzzFeed, “It was a long road to get there, but [it was] well worth it in the end. And once you get that trident, you are a SEAL. But you’re still earning your way as the new guy.”
Explaining what this meant, Emerson added, “As a new guy, you’re doing everything, and when you’re not doing everything, then you’re volunteering for everything else and [earning] the respect of your more seasoned veteran guys that are [in] that team… It takes a long time to not feel like a new guy.”
But feeling like there was more to learn kept Emerson on his toes during those first years as a SEAL. He told BuzzFeed, “It keeps every SEAL somewhat humble and always learning, always training, always trying to be better and never thinking that you are the best at something because there’s always room for improvement.”
But eventually, Emerson was able to call himself an experienced Navy SEAL. And as such, he was part of the elite team that was first on the scene in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Throughout his time in the military, he also served with a number of elite squadrons, including the National Security Agency and SEAL Team SIX.
Emerson would later tell Texas Monthly magazine, “The biggest quality [for Navy SEALs] is being adaptable – being creative.” So, during his time in the elite unit, the veteran acquired a specific skill-set. This included how to make a bulletproof garment with just books and duct tape and fashion a gun sound suppressor with nothing but steel wool, mesh and a plastic container.
In 2015 Emerson retired from the Navy, having spent the bulk of his time as a SEAL. And over those 20 years, he had developed an invaluable repertoire of survival skills that could keep him safe in all manner of scenarios. And after returning to civilian life, he was eager to pass on the lessons that he’d learned to the general public.
You see, Emerson believes that the modern world is full of threats that can arise at any moment. And he wants people to be prepared in the event of an emergency. So, the veteran penned his first book, 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation, in a bid to pass on the knowledge that he’d acquired during his impressive career.
In Emerson’s book, he reveals that he believes people belong to three different categories. First, there are the soldiers, which he calls sheepdogs. Then there’s the enemy – or the wolves. And lastly, there’s the rest of us: the sheep. In order to defend ourselves, then, we need to be more like wolves and sheepdogs.
While promoting 100 Deadly Skills on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s The 700 Club in 2015, Emerson explained his philosophy. He said, “I’ve been trying to push that the run, hide, fight mentality is a check-off list that you need, so that when crisis strikes, you’ve already got decisions made, and all you’ve got to do is to act those decisions out.”
Emerson added, “You don’t want to be making decisions in the middle of a crisis. Being prepared without a doubt is a good boy scout motto, right? And I think it applies in getting educated and making sure you know what the predator or bad guys are capable of, which makes [them] easier to defeat.”
Emerson then revealed what he meant by “run, hide, fight.” The former SEAL explained, “Any time the bad guys walk through the door, you should already know where you’re going to run. And if you’re going to run, run kind of in a zig-zag pattern, because if they have guns it’s much more difficult to shoot you. If you can’t run, then hide.”
After that, Emerson helpfully explained the best locations to seek shelter. He said, “Make sure you hide behind things that provide cover. Cover is anything that stops bullets.” The former SEAL also listed some examples: walls, tall columns at the mall and large plant pots all apparently make good hiding places.
Finally, if you can’t run or hide, Emerson advised that the only option left is to fight. But he also recommended approaching any resulting assault tactically. As the ex-SEAL explained, “Fight as a team, and leverage your environment to create weapons that can help you get out of that situation.”
In 100 Deadly Skills, Emerson details his “run, hide, fight” method. But he also reveals his tried-and-tested evasion tactics and self-defense techniques. For instance, the former SEAL offers insight into how to fashion a makeshift taser, fool facial recognition technology and even escape when locked in a box. And another serious modern threat that he identifies in his book is carjacking.
Carjackings are common across the world – not least of all in America. In fact, data gathered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics as part of the National Crime Victimization Survey suggests that 38,000 carjackings took place there each year between 1993 and 2002. These figures, which were collected for the Department of Justice, prove just how prevalent the crime is.
What’s more, carjackings can often be violent, with a weapon being used in three quarters of the incidents that were reported by the survey. Firearms were apparently the most prevalent tool used in the crime, followed by blades. And victims sustained injuries in 32 percent of completed carjackings and in around 17 percent of unsuccessful attempts.
As a result, Emerson considered the threat of carjackings large enough to include in his book. And according to the ex-SEAL, there are three main scenarios in which the crime usually takes place. The first, he says, is being confronted by someone while walking towards your vehicle and made to hand your keys over to them.
Meanwhile, the second scenario that Emerson outlines involves being threatened – possibly at gunpoint – at a stop sign. And the third that he identifies is having someone enter the car via the passenger door and forcing you to become their driver, perhaps using a firearm. In 2016 the former SEAL told the Art of Manliness podcast, “There’s different scenarios and different ways to deal with [them].”
Plus, Emerson also covered the subject of carjackings in a video for Business Insider, which was uploaded to YouTube in 2017. In it, he revealed, “Carjackings can be volatile, and the situation really dictates, but there are some general rules that you can follow. One of which is leave gaps; leave yourself room to escape, meaning don’t ride the person’s bumper in front of you.”
In the case of a carjacking, Emerson reminded people that “all terrain is drivable.” He explained, “A lot of people feel confined to the yellow and white lines or the sidewalk. You can drive over those lines; you can drive over that sidewalk in order to escape a threat. Keep that in mind, but you can only do it if you’ve left the gaps there for yourself.”
Another one of Emerson’s top tips is to keep your windows closed. He pointed out that the glass provides a layer of protection between you and any would-be carjacker. The former Navy SEAL told Business Insider, “If you keep them down, it gives [assailants] an opportunity to get physical with you before you know it and you can’t do anything about it – or it’s too late.”
Emerson also advised people to make use of their car if they feel that they are in danger of falling victim to a car theft. He revealed, “Acceleration – the gas pedal – is your friend. Don’t feel like you just have to sit there. Once again, if you’ve left the gaps, punch the pedal and move out of the way.”
However, if the situation allows, it seems that Emerson’s most important recommendation is a surprising one. Should you find yourself the victim of any crime, hand over your possessions if that’s what the assailant is after. As the veteran pointed out on The 700 Club, “Your life is more important than your wallet, your car, your jewelry or anything else you might have these days.”
So, thanks to expert advice from the likes of Emerson, motorists will hopefully feel more prepared should they find themselves being targeted by a carjacker. But according to savvy internet users, there are a few signs to look out for that could stop things from even getting that far.
Of course, there are many ways in which vehicle owners can protect their unguarded cars, including using steering wheel locks or setting alarms. Drivers can still potentially find that their vehicles are at risk while parked on the road, however. And one of the most concerning stories of carjackings of late allegedly involves plastic bottles getting wedged between car tires and wheel wells.
Throughout the years, of course, motorists across the world have had to contend with a number of different tricks deployed by carjackers. And while the scams vary in their presentations, the goal of the thieves undoubtedly remains the same. That’s why vehicle owners should always be on the lookout for any suspicious signs on their cars.
The internet can also provide helpful information about possible carjacking scams to be aware of. Fact-checking website Snopes has, for instance, shared a number of supposed potential threats to car owners down the years. In February 2004, for example, the site published a widely shared email that apparently detailed one such trick.
“Imagine [that] you walk across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside,” read the message presented on the site. “Then you lock all your doors, start the engine and shift into reverse. You look into the rearview window to back out of your parking space, and you notice a piece of paper, some sort of advertisement stuck to your rear window.”
At that point, the email claimed that the “advertisement” actually had another purpose. “So you shift into park, unlock your doors and jump out of your vehicle to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view,” it continued. “When you reach the back of your car, that is when the carjackers jump out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off.”
“Your engine was running, your purse is in the car, and they practically mow you down as they speed off in your car,” the message added. “Be aware of this new scheme. Just drive away and remove the paper that is stuck to your window later.” Snopes then reported that another supposed scam, bearing some striking similarities to this one, was also doing the rounds.
In the other version, though, the message reportedly comes from a concerned mother in West York, Pennsylvania. The writer of this text is, then, seemingly talking about a suspicious item on her child’s vehicle. “Please beware that my daughter was coming out of the West York Walmart tonight, and as she was walking to her car she noticed that a couple of guys were watching her,” the note shared on Snopes read.
“[My daughter] got into her car and locked her doors,” the message continued. “As she was leaving, she saw what appeared to be a $100 bill on her windshield. She was smart enough not to get out of her car at the time because she remembered an email that I sent her not that long ago.”
The note then revealed the contents of that supposed previous email, which seemingly mirrored the message concerning advertisements being left on vehicles. “[It was] about people putting something on the windshield, and when the person gets out to retrieve it, they are carjacked,” it added. From there, the message concluded with an apparent photo of the folded $100 bill.
Snopes reported, however, that there was no concrete evidence of any crimes being committed using these methods of operating. Still, these kinds of warnings continue to float around the internet. In February 2017, for instance, Snopes shared a social media post that seemingly detailed another potential threat to car owners. Apparently, you see, one Ashley Hardacre posted a lengthy message on Facebook after she’d found a shirt wrapped around her car windshield wipers.
“I worked a closing shift tonight, so me and the girls I work with always walk out together to make sure we are safe in the parking lot,” Hardacre reportedly wrote on Facebook. “I got to my car and locked the doors behind me immediately as I always do. [I then] noticed that there was a blue flannel shirt on my windshield.”
“There were two cars near me, and one was running, so I immediately felt uneasy and knew I couldn’t get out to get it off,” the message continued. “At first I thought maybe someone had just thrown it on my car for some odd reason. I used my windshield wipers to try to get them off, but the shirt was completely wrapped around my wiper blade.”
From there, Hardacre’s message reportedly explained why the placement of the shirt had had her so worried, referencing stories that she’d apparently previously read. “I had seen posts lately about people finding things under their windshield wipers in the Burton/Flint area as an attempt to get girls out of their cars and distracted,” the user seemingly wrote.
Hardacre had then apparently decided to head off to a discreet location away from the suspicious cars, with the shirt still stuck on her windshield. And after arriving at her destination, she had supposedly removed the item. In the message, however, the social media user reportedly questioned why her vehicle had been targeted in the parking lot.
“I don’t know why the shirt was on my car,” the message apparently read. “But it had to have been intentional [because of] the way it was put on there. I really can’t think of another reason as to why someone would put it on my car. Tomorrow, I am informing security of the situation and making them walk me to my car from now on.”
The stories that Hardacre reportedly referenced in her message seemingly indicated to her that the shirt on her vehicle had been a sign of a potential carjacking. Fortunately, though, this wasn’t actually the case in Hardacre’s specific situation. In fact, Flint Township police later discovered that Hardacre had actually been the victim of a prank.
Yet while the shirt on Hardacre’s vehicle was not a ruse to serve a carjacking, there are seemingly still other ploys that potential car thieves might utilize. In June 2017, for instance, a YouTube video brought one such technique to the attention of motorists across the world.
Translated from Spanish, the clip – which originated in Mexico – is titled “New Way to Steal Cars with a Bottle.” In the footage, it is suggested that a driver could get carjacked if a plastic bottle is lodged between one of their car’s tires and its wheel well. This placement would likely be more difficult to notice than a shirt wrapped around the windshield wipers.
So the distraction would, in this case, come from the sound of the plastic being squashed by the vehicle’s tire. At that point, then, the video intimates that the driver would leave their car to check out the strange noise – leaving the key in the ignition. And from there, it’s suggested, the car thief would supposedly jump into action and steal the automobile.
The video drew a big response on YouTube, earning over 6.5 million views and more than 12,000 likes. In addition to that, the clip also generated close to 850 comments from online users, most of whom were reportedly incredibly thankful for the demonstration. The post might have had other unintended consequences, however.
In February 2018, for instance, the Bosveld Review reported that authorities in Polokwane, South Africa, had been made aware of rumors that carjackers in the area had allegedly adopted the plastic bottle trick. This concern had apparently stemmed from social media sources. So in response, Johan Retters of the Community Policing Forum attempted to calm these fears with a statement.
“This might be a method used in the bigger cities, but to my knowledge there has not been one such case reported in Polokwane yet,” Retters stated. “Prevention is, however, better than a cure, and residents are urged to remain vigilant at all times.”
Earlier that same February, too, the apparent threat of the plastic bottle trick reportedly prompted a South African security firm to release a statement on Facebook. CB Security North West in fact urged vehicle owners to be mindful of the technique. And alongside that post, the company also included a picture highlighting the scam.
“Police warn [that] if you find a plastic bottle near your car, you may be in danger,” read CB Security North West’s statement on Facebook. “Just when we thought thieves used the highest technology to commit their flights and scams, [they] come [up] with this. The tip of a plastic bottle.”
The South African security firm also outlined the technique, mirroring the visual explanation in the aforementioned YouTube video. And after revealing how the alleged scam worked, the statement then relayed some advice to concerned citizens. “The police ask all users to share this information and thus avoid other [thefts] with this simple trick,” the post concluded.
For vehicle owners living in South Africa, this warning could have been yet another thing to be wary of while out on the roads. The official website of the country’s police service already has a detailed list of dos and don’ts relating to carjackings, after all. And one of those points – which advises drivers not to leave their keys in their cars – subsequently stood out when the supposed plastic bottle trick came to light.
Meanwhile, the United States Department of State also has guidelines of its own regarding road safety overseas. “Carjacking has become one of the most prevalent crimes in many parts of the world,” read a statement on the department’s website, according to Snopes. “Most carjackings occur for the sole purpose of taking the car.”
The State Department then gave out advice on what to avoid in those instances. “You can protect yourself by becoming familiar with the methods, ruses and locations commonly used by carjackers,” the statement continued. “The first step to avoiding an attack is to stay alert at all times and be aware of your environment.”
And at that point, the government agency revealed a list of “common attack plans” relating to carjackers – starting with something known as “The Bump.” In this case, you see, the thief gently collides into a driver’s car with their own motor. This results in the potential victim leaving their vehicle to check things over. Then, from there, the automobile is stolen.
The State Department also went on to name more “attack plans,” such as the “Good Samaritan” and “The Ruse.” In each scenario, though, the driver gets distracted by something, causing them to drop their guard. So the plastic bottle trick detailed elsewhere is seemingly just another example of the same technique.
As the plastic bottle technique continued to grow in notoriety, though, two men in 2018 attempted to see if the trick actually works. Yes, Tim and Dan from Lakeland Broadcasting fronted an August 2018 YouTube video wherein they put the supposed scam to the test. Standing next to a parked car in the clip, the pair explain their plan.
“Tim and Dan here, testing the theory that a water bottle stuck in the wheel [of a car] will cause a distraction,” Tim says. “Then the driver gets out [to check the noise], somebody is hiding, and they get into the car. [Then they] steal the car. We’re going to test it out right now.”
Tim then takes an empty water bottle and prepares to enact the trick, with Dan playing the role of the carjacker. Holding on to the camera, the former talks through his plan. “We’re going to stick this bottle in the wheel well here, right there,” he says, lodging it against one of the car’s front tires.
“[That’s] probably not something the driver would see,” Tim continues. A woman then approaches the vehicle, with Dan hiding behind the trunk in a humorous disguise. So the female opens the door and sits in the driver’s seat, while the camera remains focused on the bottle in the wheel well.
Then, a few moments later, the woman starts the ignition and slowly pulls the car away from the parking space. The bottle subsequently crackles between the tire and the wheel well – albeit not that loudly – before falling out altogether. And after this, Tim asks the driver if the sound served as any kind of distraction.
“Did you hear that noise well enough that it would have made you get out and check your car?” Tim questions. “I couldn’t hear anything from inside the car,” the woman responds. “Not a thing.” Not yet satisfied, however, Tim looks to try again to see if the results will differ.
“Let me just put [the bottle] way down in here,” Tim says as he lodges the item into the wheel well for a second time. “I’m gonna really wedge it into that tire there. It’s wedged as far as it can go now.” So, with everything in place, the car slowly moves forward, causing the bottle to crunch once again.
In this instance, though, there is a key difference. And as Tim moves the camera up to the driver, we see that the passenger side window is open. “With the window down, I can hear it,” the woman says. “With the window up, [no].” So while the driver had noticed the noise, it still didn’t prove all that distracting.
Tim therefore gives a rather blunt assessment of the results of his tests. “We’re going to call that, probably not terribly plausible,” he says, bringing the video to an end. Elsewhere, too, Snopes has done a bit of digging, curious to see if the plastic bottle technique has actually resulted in a driver getting carjacked.
Snopes subsequently spoke to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and asked if they had heard anything regarding the trick. “A representative said they were unaware of any reports of carjackings involving plastic bottles,” the website reported. So it’s not entirely certain that the bottle trick can be considered a genuine threat – but it’s undoubtedly worthy of consideration for the sake of staying safe.
As it turns out, though, there’s more than one reason that spotting a bottle around your car could be a sign of imminent danger. In fact, leaving a plastic water container inside your vehicle can have devastating effects. Here’s exactly what you need to know.
During the summer, it’s incredibly important to stay hydrated – particularly if you’re out in the sun for a while. And, handily, there are a variety of options out there by which to achieve this – through sipping from a public fountain, for instance, or taking swigs from plastic water bottles. But those wanting to boost their water intake should take heed of Dioni Amuchastegui’s worrying experience.
On a hot day in Boise, Idaho, in July 2017, Amuchastegui was taking a well-earned break from his job. After glancing quickly at his truck, though, the power company worker happened to notice something quite troubling. According to Amuchastegui, smoke was starting to billow inside the vehicle.
Naturally, then, Amuchastegui investigated the issue, after which he realized that the smoke was emanating from one of the truck’s front seats. When the technician finally discovered the cause of the problem, however, it left him somewhat shocked.
Before the incident, you see, Amuchastegui had put a plastic bottle of water on one of the seats. Then, as the sun had beamed down on the truck, the bottle had become a makeshift lens, magnifying the rays of light onto the seats’ material. And after this scary event, the vehicle owner looked to spread the word about this potential fire hazard via social media.
For many people across the world, summer is the most enjoyable time of the year. Temperatures are often high during the season, after all, and balmy weather may make leaving the house an much more pleasant prospect. If the heat gets too intense, however, there could be some drawbacks.
Car owners in particular have to be extremely vigilant during the summer months, as the hot weather can cause a number of problems. Leaving an animal or a youngster alone in a vehicle, for instance, becomes even more potentially dangerous – and that’s certainly not all.
You see, if a motorist leaves their vehicle in the sun for some time, the interior will absorb the heat. When the driver eventually returns and opens the door, then, an intense burst of warm air will come out of the car. The dash, the steering wheel and the seats may all feel incredibly hot, too.
In those conditions, the driver can either wait for the interior to cool down or brave their next journey in the uncomfortable heat. Whatever they choose to do, though, they also have a responsibility to keep themselves hydrated on the road.
But why is it important to keep your water levels topped up when traveling from A to B? Well, a study from the U.K.’s Loughborough University has discovered that dehydrated motorists could pose a big danger when behind the wheel. In much the same way as drunk drivers, they may suffer impairments of their abilities – thus making accidents more likely.
In a 2018 report about the findings, British newspaper The Sun explained, “A survey by Leasing Options found a whopping 84 percent of motorists felt [that drunk-driving] was far more dangerous than not having enough water.” Worrying, the publication added, “Around three in five Brits had no idea of the risks [of dehydration at the wheel] at all.”
And it seems that such ignorance may have a knock-on effect. “With just under 70 percent of accidents on U.K. roads being attributed to driver error, dehydration could be a major factor in motorists losing focus and being involved in a collision,” The Sun further explained.
Leasing Options’ Mike Thompson therefore offered up some advice to drivers who were facing hot weather. “Showing caution and drinking more water will not only have a positive effect on the body, but [it] will also ensure [that] motorists stand a far greater chance of reaching their destination safe and well,” he told The Sun.
And Thompson’s words of wisdom didn’t end there. “When starting your car ready for the morning commute, you may not think [that] drinking an extra glass of water before leaving the house would affect your driving abilities,” he said to the newspaper. “But you would be wrong – so make it your prerogative.”
“Try carrying a water bottle in the car, or have an extra glass of water at the beginning and end of your working day to avoid dehydrated driving,” Thompson further recommended. However, that first suggestion may bring with it some risks if Amuchastegui’s story is anything to go by.
During a scorching hot day in Boise in July 2017, Amuchastegui had taken a break inside his vehicle. While tucking into his lunch, though, the technician noticed something alarming: one of the front seats had started to smoke. Thankfully, he was at least able to prevent his truck from bursting into flames.
Then, after putting the smoke out, Amuchastegui came to a surprising realization: the incident had been caused by a plastic bottle of water on the seat, as this had acted like a lens of sorts in the sun. But while the man later recounted what had happened to some of his co-workers, they found the tale hard to believe.
“A lot of people on [Amuchastegui’s] team thought he was making it up,” Melissa Thom recalled to CBS News in August 2017. “Everybody was shocked.” And Amuchastegui looked to share his experience with the world, too – not least because other motorists may not know about the potential fire hazards in their cars.
Amuchastegui’s employer, Idaho Power, went on to film a short video about the incident that was ultimately shared on Facebook. Titled “Safety Check: Water Bottle in a Hot Car,” the clip opens up with an introduction from the technician, who casts his mind back to that hot day in his truck.
“So, I was taking an early lunch and sitting in the truck,” Amuchastegui recalls in the social media video. “[And I] happened to notice some smoke out of the corner of my eye. I looked over and noticed that light was being refracted through a water bottle and started to catch the seat on fire.”
Amuchastegui also touches upon his initial reaction to the incident, saying, “I was a little bit surprised. I actually had to do a double take, [so] I checked it again. And, sure enough, [the seat] was super hot. I even stuck my hand under the light. [It] was hard to believe at first.”
A little earlier in the video, Amuchastegui had demonstrated what had happened in the truck, showing off the two burn marks to the interior. It was revealed, too, that Idaho Power had attempted to recreate the incident, with a camera ultimately capturing the results.
“We tested [the situation] again and registered the heat. I don’t remember exactly what it was,” Amuchastegui recalls. “With a non-contact thermometer, it was extremely hot. It was hot enough to start burning a hole through the seat. It’s not something you really expect – having a water bottle that [will] catch your chair on fire.”
As Amuchastegui is talking, the video cuts to a stationary shot of the bottle above the seat. Then, within a few moments, the reflected sunlight starts to burn the material, which produces some noticeable smoke. At this point, it’s revealed that the plastic is generating a temperature of 213 °F.
And the Idaho Power post certainly seemed to make people sit up and take notice. At the very least, the clip has gone viral, having earned close to two million views on Facebook since it was first added to the social media site in July 2017.
The video has also generated close to 2,000 likes and just under 7,000 shares, with more than 240 people commenting on the post to boot. And, unsurprisingly, there were many who hadn’t known about the potential dangers of water bottles in cars.
“Wow!” wrote one user in the comments section of the video. “That’s dangerous. Thank you for teaching me something new. I will be passing this information along to my family and associates.” Another person reiterated those feelings before going on to make an interesting point.
“Wow, think how many water bottles are floating around in people’s vehicles!” the Facebook user wrote. “That’s scary.” And yet another commenter chose to raise an important issue that hadn’t actually been addressed by Idaho Power’s video – but one that was still worth heeding.
That person revealed their belief that the human body may also be damaged by using containers that are left out in the heat. “Plastic bottles of water when sat in the sun should be thrown away,” the user wrote. “They release toxins. Ditch the plastic; [it’s] not good for anyone or the planet.”
And David Richardson from Oklahoma’s Midwest City Fire Department also took it upon himself to weigh in on the discussion. According to the administration major, a plastic bottle could absolutely start a blaze in that situation.
“Vinyl generally starts to burn at 455 degrees,” Richardson informed CBS News in August 2017. “It wouldn’t take very long to start a fire if conditions were right; [it just] depends on how focused that beam of light is.” There was something else he wanted to make clear to the public, too.
Richardson added, “The air temperature doesn’t matter. [The plastic bottle] works just like a magnifying glass – like one that you would use to burn leaves as a kid. It’s the same principle.” Ultimately, then, the Midwest City Fire Department produced its own video on the issue in order to further boost awareness.
That said, the fire department’s video differed slightly to that of Amuchastegui and his colleagues. In particular, Richardson chose not to burn a car seat, instead using a plain piece of paper for his demonstration – although the results were pretty much the same.
And after singeing a hole in the paper, Richardson makes some important points to the viewer. “A water bottle can start a fire,” he explains. “But while this paper did burn, I want you to keep a couple of things in mind. One: it’s about 450 degrees to burn this paper. Two: this was a clear bottle with a clear fluid in [it].”
That latter detail proves somewhat significant. “If this [bottle] was empty or partially filled, it probably wouldn’t have worked and magnified this,” Richardson adds. “So keep in mind that all the factors have to be in place to actually make this work.”
The Midwest City Fire Department subsequently uploaded the video onto its official Facebook page in August 2017. And this too generated a large response on social media, with the short clip going on to earn more than 100,000 views.
One individual also chose to back up Richardson’s findings in the comments section. “I truly believe it,” they wrote. “I learned a long time ago [that if] you put a drop of water on a piece of clear plastic, [it turns] it into a magnifying glass!”
Yet, as Richardson mentioned, keeping a plastic bottle in a hot car may not always prove dangerous. And the Midwest City Fire Department explained as much in a disclaimer to its Facebook post. “The likelihood of this happening in a vehicle and sustaining a fire is probably very small,” the message read. “We do not endorse or condone this activity. This was conducted in a controlled environment for demonstration purposes only!”
Regardless, concerns over the safety of such a practice hit the headlines again ahead of 2018’s World Cup in Russia. To celebrate soccer’s biggest competition that summer, a local business named Holy Water had started to stock commemorative bottles of water, with the special plastic containers shaped in the form of soccer balls.
However, in May 2018 a Russian YouTube user uploaded a clip to the video-sharing site that showcased the damage these bottles could do in the sun – from setting a box of matches alight to burning a hole in a laminate floor. Since then, the short clip has had more than 640,000 views.
But despite the apparent dangers of keeping plastic bottles in the sun, Richardson continued to assure the public that this shouldn’t be cause for panic. “It’s not a crisis,” he told CBS News. “We don’t know of this happening or becoming a contributing factor of car fires in our district, but the potential does exist.”