The Physics Behind a Car Accident; Why Seat Belts are Important

You remember high school physics right? I realize that most of our readers would say no to this question so this post will serve as a refresher course to help you learn something about motor vehicle accidents, physics, and safety.

Put as simply as possible, physics is the set of rules that governs the world around us; it is involved in everything we do, including driving. Each time you get into your car, shift in to drive, and accelerate, the increase in speed builds velocity and momentum for both the car and its passengers. We usually don’t think about this because everything inside the car is moving at the same speed, so to us the interior of the car appears stationary. However, when the vehicle we are driving abruptly stops due to a collision, the people inside continue to move. This large change in velocity in a short period of time (a=v/t) puts a great deal of force on our bodies (F=m a), and for this reason most car accidents involve not one, but three impacts:
1. The vehicle colliding with another vehicle or object.
2. The passenger colliding with the interior of the vehicle.
3. The passenger’s internal organs colliding with the rib cage, or other part of the body.

Most vehicles produced in recent years are produced with crumple zones, which dissipate the force of an impact by allowing the vehicle to slow down over a longer period of time, and dispersing the force. Although slowing a car more gradually does help the driver and passengers, it is only effective if they are attached to the vehicle. Without a seatbelt, the force of the second and third collision in an accident is much greater, and as a result the risk of death or permanent injury is amplified. This is why campaigns like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Click It of Ticket and Buckle Up America are so important. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

The fact that it could save your life is reason enough to wear a seat belt at all times while in your car, but with law enforcement officials all over Illinois are ramping up enforcement, avoiding a fine is another. As personal injury lawyers, we know that more times than not the most dangerous thing a person does each day is get behind the wheel of their car. The safety features of a vehicle are there to protect drivers and passengers from the 6 million car accidents that occur in the United States each year. The more people that use them, the safer we will be.

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