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What Are the Three Impacts of a Car Crash?

More people died in car accidents in 2021 than any year since 2005, according to a study published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on May 17, 2022. 

There were an estimated 42,915 fatalities from car accidents in the United States in 2021. Therefore, it is very important to remain educated about car accidents, how they are caused, what happens during them, how they can be prevented, and what to do if you are involved in one. The total economic loss to society from car accidents in 2021 was $400 billion. Being educated about car accidents can help you to ensure that you don’t become a victim.

Many people think a car crash only involves one crash. However, engineers and emergency medical personnel will tell you that every crash contains three separate impacts: the vehicle impact, the impact of the vehicle occupant’s body and the occupant’s organs inside the body. These will be examined more closely below.

Impact #1 – Vehicle Impact

This is the impact that most people think of when they think of a car accident. This impact occurs when the vehicle crashes into something such as another car, a guard rail, or a pole. The severity of this impact will be dependent on how fast the vehicle was going at impact, the size of the vehicle, what the vehicle hit, the angle of the collision, and how quickly the vehicle stopped. These variables all affect the force of the collision which will determine the extent of the seriousness of the crash. 

Speed is the factor that has the largest influence on how bad the crash will be. Speed has an exponential relationship to force which means that the amount of force increases more rapidly than does the increase in speed, so even a small increase in speed can result in a large increase in force and make the crash more dangerous or deadly. Older vehicles were built like tanks and designed to resist the forces of a collision. Newer vehicles are designed to absorb the force exerted in the crash; therefore, you see cars “crumpled” even in low-speed collisions. This results in the passenger compartment of the car remaining intact which means fewer injuries to the occupants.

Impact #2 – Body Impact

This is the impact that happens when the occupants of the car hit something inside the passenger compartment. This can occur when unsecured items in the car fly around in the collision. These can be items such as glass bottles, electronic devices and children’s toys. If these items hit a person’s head or neck, a fatal injury could occur.


This impact can also occur when the body is thrust forward toward the point of impact. This is due to inertia as the body is continuing to move forward even though the vehicle has stopped. If the driver and passengers are buckled up, their bodies will be thrust forward until the seat belt restrains them.  If they are not wearing seatbelts, their bodies will impact the inside of a vehicle or be ejected through a window.  This type of impact commonly leads to serious head trauma and fatalities in car crashes. 

Impact #3 – Organ Impact

This type of damage occurs inside the body when the body stops and the organs, which are free-floating in the body or attached to other structures via ligaments and other types of connective tissue, continue to go forward.  This can result in the tissues and muscles being stretched which will result in soreness and could result in tearing. It could also result in solid organs such as the liver or spleen being fractured which can cause internal bleeding. If a critical blood vessel like those that enter and leave your heart become damaged, so much blood could be lost internally that the injury could become fatal.

One of the worst organ impacts is when an organ hits a bone inside the body. This is what happens during a concussion. The brain continues to fly forward when the body stops. This results in the brain hitting the inside of the skull.  When the neck whips backward the brain can likewise impact the inside rear of the skull. The brain gets bruised or begins to bleed and the person often loses consciousness.  If the impact is severe enough, it can cause devastating long-term injuries to the brain.

What Can You Do?

In order to protect yourself from all three of the crashes that occur in a car accident there are several steps you can take:

  • Always wear your seatbelt and assure that all passengers are doing so
  • Always secure children in approved car seats
  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Maintain your speed within the posted speed limits
  • Do not text, eat or do anything that could distract you while driving
  • Secure any unsecured items inside your passenger compartment with straps or clips

It is becoming more and more likely that a car accident could happen to you. With the number of accidents continually rising, it is important to take steps to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the people around you. If you become a party in a car accident, it is important to seek medical attention as needed. 

Your medical bills may qualify for insurance reimbursement, and you may be entitled to additional compensation for pain and suffering if the other party was at fault. Contact your closest Van Law Firm office today for a free consultation.