Biology
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What Happens to Your Body in a High-Speed Car Crash

Updated November 5, 2019 66.3k views17 items

Car accidents are horrifyingly common and, unfortunately, highly deadly. Over a million people die in car accidents every year, and the causes of death in these crashes are wildly numerous. High-speed collisions are some of the worst, and the effects of a car crash of that type on your body are as terrifying as they are fascinating. Between the way your brain reacts, the way your organs react, and the way you physically react, it's a wonder anyone survives these kinds of super-fast collisions at all!

What happens to your body in a car crash can, at best, be called pretty gross, and, at worst, be called absolutely sickening. Because of this, be warned that what you are about to read gets graphic at times. Still, let's hope that you can read it here rather than experiencing it first hand.

So, if you're curious about how your body reacts in a car crash, then rev your engines and let's get on the road. And if you learn anything from these facts, it's that driving safely, while wearing a seatbelt is definitely the way to go.

  • There Will Be A Few Moments Where You See It Happening But Don't Feel It

    Even though our bodies are not exactly made to take on high-speed impacts, cars are. In a high-speed collision, the nose of the car is built to crumple in order to absorb some of the shock and energy. Aptly enough, the portion of the car that takes on the force of the crash is called the "Crumple Zone."

    This crumpling effect means that you, as the driver, do not have to feel the entire impact of the collision, and this means that the car is going to feel the crash before you do. You may see it happening, but for a brief few instants, you won't feel a thing as your car reacts around you and tries to save your life. That being said, the car can't take all the damage, and once the crumple zone has done its duty, you'll start to feel the crash in full. And boy, is your body going to feel it.

  • The Faster You're Going, The Worse the Damage To Your Body Will Be

    The amount of damage you're going to take from a high-speed crash mostly has to do with just how fast you're going. The crumple zone's effectiveness is dictated by the mass of the car as well as the speed at which you're driving. If you're driving over the speed limit, you should probably expect the collision to be a lot harder on your body. The crumple zone just can't crush fast enough to absorb the energy, so your body is going to feel more of it.

    Also, the higher speed can crush parts of your car in against you and can mean the car is more likely to roll or break apart. 

  • Your Body Will Try to Stay In Motion For As Long As Possible

    You've probably heard the idea that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest. This is especially true during a car crash. As your car strikes an object or another car at high speed, it has to stop because its forward motion is impeded. But your body doesn't get that message right away. It continues to move forward at the same speed your car was going until it is stopped by something.

    This means that, no matter what your body impacts first, be it the seatbelt, the steering wheel, the air bag, or the windshield, it will do so moving at upwards of 60 mph! This is the reason that many people are thrown out of their car if they crash without wearing their seatbelt.

  • Your Seatbelt Will Try to Save You

    Here's where wearing a seatbelt really comes into play. When the car lurches to a stop and your body jerks sharply forward while trying to stay in motion, the seatbelt is made specifically to catch you. It is constructed in such a way as to react to the speed and mass of your body in motion without snapping or cutting. You'll feel it distribute the force of your rapid deceleration over stronger parts of your body, such as your chest, shoulders, and hips. This keeps you from flying through the windshield or cracking your head on the dashboard.

    This assumes you're wearing it correctly, of course. An incorrectly worn seatbelt can be a nightmare during an accident and can result in bruising, ruptured organs, and even a broken neck! A properly worn seatbelt is often what saves someone's life during a car accident, though seatbelts present a few relatively minor problems of their own.