front of red car with broken headlight

What Are the Three Stages of a Collision?

What Happens During a Car Crash?

The intense impact of a car crash can cause severe and fatal injuries. According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Tennessee had the largest increase (+9.1%) in traffic fatalities between 2018 and 2019, accounting for 1,135 lost lives. Even when going at slower speeds, crash pattern stages are still the same.

A car crash can happen in the blink-of-an-eye. Read on to learn more about what happens at each stage of a car crash and how sustaining an injury can happen quickly.

Stage 1: Vehicle Collision

When involved in a vehicle crash, your car will come to a violent and sudden stop, no matter what speed you are going. As the vehicle begins to slow down upon impact, it will begin to crush. For example, when traveling at 30 mph, a car hitting a stationary object will crumple at approximately 2 feet and in less than one second. The crush will absorb some of the collision force.

Stage 2: Human Collison

During the second stage of “human collision,” all occupants in the vehicle will still be moving in the same direction and speed as they were before the collision happened. Inertia will keep the occupants moving toward the point of an impact unless a seatbelt or airbag stops them. However, if an occupant is unrestrained, occupants can be hurled forward and stopped by some part of the vehicle, such as a steering wheel, window, or the dashboard.

Occupants in a crash can also collide with each other and can sustain devastating injuries. For example, people in the front seat of a car can be hit by passengers in the backseat as they are forcefully thrown forward. Loose objects inside the vehicle can also cause a serious injury from the force of the collision. For example, a cell phone or laptop can cause a severe injury after colliding with an occupant.

Stage 3: Internal Collision

As the vehicle and occupants slow down, the organs and body tissues inside a person will still be moving towards the point of impact. Again, inertia will continue to move organs and body tissue at this last stage. Internal organs will continue to move until they are stopped by hitting other organs, bones, or the skull. Internal organs such as the brain being moved against the skull can cause a serious traumatic brain injury.

How to Reduce the Risk of an Injury During a Collision

When you get in your car, the last thing on your mind is getting into a car accident. However, staying prepared can reduce the risk of a severe or fatal injury should you be involved in a crash. Here are some tips on how to keep your car crash-ready and your passengers safe.

  • Buckle up - Seatbelts save lives! Both drivers and passengers should stay buckled up during the entire trip — even if you are sitting in the back seat. It’s also essential to ensure that your seatbelt is fastened correctly (i.e. keep the lap belt from lying across your belly). This could cause serious internal injuries in the event of a crash. Wear your lap belt tight and low over your pelvic bones. Also, do not wear the shoulder belt on the neck or collar bone or under your arm as this could cause serious lacerations or bone fractures. The shoulder belt should pass over the middle of your shoulder.
  • Don’t sit too close to the steering wheel - Sitting too close to the steering wheel can cause fractures to the rib and soft tissue injuries. Sitting too close to the steering wheel can also cause harm from airbag deployment.
  • When driving, keep your seat positioned correctly - An incorrectly set seat can increase the risk of leg, back, and whiplash injuries. Keep your seat positioned close enough to the pedals, so you don’t have to extend your leg fully. In the event of a crash, having your legs bent can help absorb impact from the accident and reduce the risk of fractures and injuries to your lower back.
  • Keep children in car seats - Keep your child in a car seat or booster seat. Choosing the right car seat depends on their age, height, and weight. Never place a rear-facing infant seat in the front seat. Booster seats and other car seats should also be kept in the back seat of the car. Children under 13 years of age should always ride in the back seat, and whenever possible, in the middle of the backseat with seatbelts fastened. If you are unsure about the type of car seat you should use for your child, the NHTSA has a car seat finder tool that is easy to use.
  • Keep loose items in the trunk - Any object, such as a laptop or cell phone, can cause a severe injury in a crash. The safest place for any item in your car is the trunk. If you must carry something inside the vehicle, keep it on the floor behind the driver or passenger seat.

What to do After a Crash

Even if you think you have not been injured or you “feel fine,” seek medical attention immediately. Many injuries can go undetected for hours or even days. Failing to care for an injury, such as a traumatic brain injury, including concussions, could have long-term devastating effects. Here are some common delayed symptoms after a car crash that shouldn’t be ignored:

  • Headaches
  • Stiffness in the shoulder and neck
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Numbness or tingling, shooting pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depressed moods

Involved in a Car Crash? We can help.

Sustaining an injury in a car accident can be devastating and have lifelong effects on the victim and their families. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, we can help. When it comes to handling insurance companies, we will guide you every step of the way. From recovering medical costs, lost income, property damage, and more — we’ll be your trusted partner throughout the process.

We are here for you. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. Contact Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi, PLC today at (901) 526-2126.