The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 22, 2013

Ask a Trooper: Buckle your seat belts

Question: Do you knowWhat happens after a car going 55 mph hits a solid object?

By Jacalyn Sticha
Minnesota State Patrol

— There is an article I have read, many times, which goes through the first second of a fatal crash. I was wondering if it is accurate?

I am familiar with it and I found an old copy. The author is unknown; nonetheless, the essay has been read, likely, by millions in the United States. Many variables would alter the timing and outcome of a crash: speed, location of impact, car safety features, age of occupants, etc. However, it does accurately represent the violent nature of a crash and how quickly it happens, as well as the increase in severity when a motorist is not buckled up. I think you can consider it a good reminder.

Do you know what happens after a car going 55 mph hits a solid object?

1. In the first 10th of a second, the front bumper and grill collapse.

I am familiar with it and I found an old copy. The author is unknown; nonetheless, the essay has been read, likely, by millions in the United States. Many variables would alter the timing and outcome of a crash: speed, location of impact, car safety features, age of occupants, etc. However, it does accurately represent the violent nature of a crash and how quickly it happens, as well as the increase in severity when a motorist is not buckled up. I think you can consider it a good reminder.

Do you know what happens after a car going 55 mph hits a solid object?

1. In the first 10th of a second, the front bumper and grill collapse.There is an article I have read, many times, which goes through the first second of a fatal crash. I was wondering if it is accurate?

2. The second 10th finds the hood crumbling, rising and striking the windshield as the spinning rear wheels lift from the ground. Simultaneously, fenders begin wrapping themselves around the solid object. Although the car’s frame has been halted, the rest of the car is still going 55 miles per hour. Instinct causes the driver to stiffen his legs against the crash, and they snap at the knee joint.

3. During the third 10th of the second, the steering wheel starts to disintegrate and the steering column aims for the driver’s chest.

4. The fourth 10th of the second finds two feet of the car’s front end wrecked, while the rear end still moves at 35 miles per hour. The driver’s body is still traveling at 55 miles per hour.

5. In the fifth 10th of a second, the driver is impaled on the steering column, and blood rushes into his lungs.

6. The sixth 10th of a second, the impact has built up to the point that the driver’s feet are ripped out of tightly laced shoes.  The brake pedal breaks off. The car frame buckles in the middle. The driver’s head smashes into the windshield as the rear wheels, still spinning, fall back to the earth.

7. In the seventh 10th of a second, hinges rip loose, doors fly open and the seats break free, striking the driver from behind.

8. The seat striking the driver does not bother him because he is already dead.  The last three 10ths of a second mean nothing to the driver.

Moral: You may choose to break the law and not buckle up, however, you cannot break the laws of physics.