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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that though the combination of seat belt use and air bags has reduced fatality risk by 61 percent in automobile crashes (as compared to an unbelted occupant in a vehicle without air bags), people are still getting seriously hurt and dying in frontal crashes. The effectiveness of buckling up and having an air bag “is nowhere near 100 percent,” the report states, “because thousands of fatalities are still occurring.”

Studies show that there are certain injuries that are more likely to occur in frontal collisions. These are usually some of the most serious and severe that may occur in a car or truck accident.

What is a Frontal Collision?

A frontal or head-on collision is defined as one in which the front end of a vehicle comes into contact with the front end of another vehicle, and the two crash together. These types of collisions can often result in death because of the speeds involved, and the abrupt nature of the collision. When two cars (or trucks) crash into one another, and both were traveling about the same speed at the time, it’s like ramming into a wall, as there is no “give” or absorption of impact.

Common Injuries in a Head-On Collision

The following are all common injuries that may result from a head-on collision:

• Whiplash: Because of the forces involved in the crash, whiplash is a common injury. The head and neck continue moving forward even after the cars have collided, then are whipped back, straining the ligaments and muscles in the neck and shoulders. Symptoms include pain, headaches, dizziness, stiffness, and numbness.
• Neck injuries: According to a 2000 study, neck injuries are the most frequent disabling injuries among car occupants in road traffic accidents. Researchers report that almost a third of all these injuries are caused by frontal impacts.
• Abdominal injuries: Another 2000 study looked at the occurrence of abdominal injuries in frontal and side impacts. They found that even though side impacts are more likely to create abdominal injuries, frontal impacts do as well. The liver and spleen organs were found to be the most vulnerable, with the kidneys and diaphragm also at risk.
• Spinal cord injuries: The force of a head-on collision may travel up the spine and cause injury, such as a herniated disc, nerve damage, or cracked vertebra. Victims may be paralyzed, depending on the severity of the crash.
• Head trauma: The head is often thrown back and forward in a frontal collision, which can result in concussion. If the head hits the steering wheel, the damage may be worse. Though air bags have reduced the risk of head trauma, skull fractures and brain injury still occur. A 2009 study found that obese passengers were even more likely to suffer a severe head trauma after a frontal collision.
• Chest injury: The ribcage and chest can be injured by the force of the seatbelt, the body slamming into the steering wheel, the force of the air bag, or another type of blunt trauma. In some cases, the force can injure or break the ribs, or damage the lungs.
• Foot and leg injuries: According to a 2012 report by the NHTSA, “lower extremity injuries” are common in frontal crashes. Since the legs and feet are the first to be affected in a frontal collision, they often absorb much of the impact. Legs and knees can also collide with the instrument panel, causing further damage. Possible injuries include a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), broken bones, crushed legs, foot and ankle injuries, and more.

Though auto manufacturers have made significant improvements to reduce the risk of injury in frontal crashes, there is still a lot to be done. In the meantime, victims of impacts caused by other neglectful drivers, defective vehicles, or unsafe roads and construction areas, deserve to be compensated for damages.

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