What Makes a Crash Fatal?

It is impossible to accurately conceive the massive forces at work during a high-speed automobile crash, unless you have experienced one. Thankfully more people have survived to tell the story than in years before. Despite incredible advancements in automobile safety, crashes continue to be fatal. Utilizing statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), the causes and variables in these fatal crashes become clear. Knowing what sort of crashes cause fatalities and how to avoid those situations could save you or your loved ones some day.

The best way to survive a deadly situation is to avoid it. When speaking about cars, this means performance. The only part of your car touching the road is your tires. This makes them the most important performance part on your vehicle. Being able to maneuver away from danger, without creating more danger is vital in accident prevention. Listen to Mario Andretti, “Check your tires”. Approximately 28 percent of all light vehicles on United States roadways have at least one under inflated tire. Under inflated tires can increase stopping distance, chances of blowouts, tire separation, maneuverability, and decrease the efficiency of your vehicle. Over inflation can be equally detrimental. Make sure your tires have the correct pressure. Changes in temperature, elevation, and weather condition can all affect the pressure in your tires. Rotate your tires every 6,000 miles and note the wear. Tread depth is as important as tire pressure. Brakes go along with tires. Change your brake pads according to your manufacturer recommendations and have them periodically lubricated. This will no only enhance the performance of the breaks, but extend their lifespan.

In 2008, 55 percent of fatal accidents involved a passenger who did not have their seat belt on. Besides the damage inevitable to you, during a crash an unrestrained passenger can do significant damage to others in the vehicle. Airbags work in tandem with seat belts. If you do not wear your seat belt, the other safety mechanisms in your car will fail. Without the use of seat belts airbags can bottom out, or fail to deploy properly. If used in tandem, seat belts and airbags decrease the probability of a fatal crash by 61 percent.

The next tier of crashes are ones that proved fatal despite the passenger wearing a seat belt and driving a vehicle equipped with airbags. The largest fatality group is described by the NHTSA as “exceedingly severe”. This means “(1)full-frontal or offset-frontal impacts with good structural engagement, but the deceleration was too severe (2) Impacts with poor structural engagement, and (3) Anomalies; unusual crash configurations that are difficult to address through vehicle improvements, such as being hit in the front of the upper occupant compartment by an airborne vehicle”.

Prevention stands as the best way to survive an accident. Fatal crashes are complex, and once in motion there are only milliseconds before impact. Having your car in the best working order possible is your best defense. Taking a defensive driving course is also a great way to improve preparedness.


U.S. Department of Transportation, National  Highway Traffic

Safety Administration. (2009). Fatalities in Frontal Crashes

Despite Seat Belts and Air Bags: Review of All CDS Cases Model and Calendar  Years 2000-2007, 122 Fatalities. (DOT HS 811 202). Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic

Safety Administration. (2009). 2008 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment

– Highlights. (DOT HS 811 172). Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic

Safety Administration. (2009). Tire Pressure Maintenance- A statistical  Investigation. (DOT HS 811 086). Washington, DC: Author.

Brad Crescenzo -CarInsuranceQuotes.net Expert An avid 4-wheeler, Brad is tickled by anything with an engine. Ever since receiving his license, then crashing the same day, Brad has driven across the country over twenty times. He has an explicit love affair with the road, and aspires to win the Rally Dakar.

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