HEAD-ON COLLISIONS: FATAL ENCOUNTERS

It can come upon you in an instant.  Suddenly, another vehicle is aiming straight towards you – filling your entire gaze.  A moment of pure panic, then the bone jarring and many times the bone-shattering impact.  Even with your airbag deployed, you know the injuries can be anything but minor.

Here are the most common results of a head-on collision:

  • Head & brain trauma
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Smashed and broken bones
  • Neck injuries such as whiplash
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Contusions and burns

And of course, the very real possibility of death.

The physics of a head-on collision demonstrate exactly why these types of vehicular accidents are so destructive.

Imagine you’re on a highway going a cautious 55 miles per hour.  A head-on collision with another vehicle going at the same speed would be like you hitting a brick wall – at 110 miles per hour.  The outcome is not going to be pleasant.

Also, bear in mind that speed increases the effective mass of an object.  While speed increases proportionally, the force of impact increases exponentially.

In simple terms, if you were to hit a brick wall or another car head-on, going at twenty-five miles an hour, the force of that lower speed collision would only be one-quarter of that if you were going at 50, and one-sixteenth if the vehicle was going at 100.

Speed, in this case, does indeed kill.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE ACTUAL CRASH?

Here’s the thing… metal is strong.  Your body isn’t.  In a confrontation between the two, you will always come out the loser.  Next thing to consider is that rapid deceleration (going from let’s say 60 mph to zero in about a second) will play havoc on your insides.

  • Your brain matter is splashed forward against your inner forehead, and then bounces back in a shock wave fashion. Brain trauma is the result.
  • The aorta can be ripped apart from the heart – leaving you to bleed to death internally within seconds.  Your liver and spleen can be squashed against the body, being torn and mangled in the process.
  • In the second or two before the actual crash, your body will tense up to the point of rigidity.  Upon impact, bones will then snap like twigs; ligaments ripped out of place.
  • Lungs and stomach can rupture.
  • Your neck will undulate like a wave, the classic “whiplash” effect.  In severe enough crashes, the neck will snap under the strain.

Anything not bolted down inside the vehicle becomes a potentially deadly missile, including any passengers not wearing a seat belt.  While air bags may protect your front, they will do nothing to help the back of your head when an object impacts it with the force of a mule kick.

HEAD-ON COLLISIONS HAPPEN WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECT IT

Instinctively, you might assume most head-on collisions will happen on a highway or freeway in heavily traveled areas.  You’d be wrong.

According to the Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS), three-quarters (75%) of all head on collisions happen on rural, undivided two-lane roads.

Looking at this, you may then assume these head-on collisions result from failed passing maneuvers.  A driver simply accelerated trying to pass another vehicle, and misjudged the oncoming traffic.  If so, you’d be wrong again.

Only 4.2 per cent of all fatal head-on crashes were due to one vehicle passing or overtaking another. So what are the causes of head-on collisions?

DRIVER ERROR AND DISTRACTIONS

One major cause is traveling too fast around a curve.  The vehicle sways into the opposite lane and tragedy results.  Driver distractions such as texting while driving, yakking on the cell phone, fiddling with the CD player… one moment your eyes are away from the windshield, the next moment they’re gazing at another vehicle mere feet away from your front grill.

Alternatively, a driver may simply fall asleep at the wheel (which curiously will help the sleeper survive the crash, as they will be limp and flexible to absorb the impact better).

Of course, alcohol is yet another factor, as is speeding and losing control of your car or truck.

HEAD-ON COLLISIONS INCREASING IN TEXAS

Unfortunately, the incidents of head-on collisions are increasing in Texas.  In the last ten years alone, auto related deaths on Texas highways have multiplied to 1,000 additional fatalities.  While there is no definitive answer as to why, here are some points to consider:

The increase in hydraulic fracturing along with horizontal drilling has made rural roads less safe – the exact same roads figuring prominently in head-on collisions.  The drivers of the big rigs involved in this industry travel down these rural roads.  These drivers are often over-tired and over-stressed, adding fuel to the fire.  Along with the roughneck culture comes alcohol and drug abuse.  Now combine all this with auto drivers not used to sharing the road with the increase in traffic and trucks – and you can see why these head-on car accidents are on the rise.