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The Science of Car vs. Pedestrian

By Lependorf & Silverstein on August 23, 2018

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed in crashes with motor vehicles, and 70,000 were injured. If you have an inquisitive mind, you may have wondered what exactly happens when a pedestrian is hit by a car. Scientists have been studying the process and mechanics of car accidents for many years in a bid to figure out how to make cars safer and how to reduce pedestrian fatalities.

So, what exactly happens during a collision with a car, and how does it affect a human body?

What Happens When a Car Hits a Pedestrian?

It can be a terrifying sight to witness a human body being hit by a vehicle, especially a vehicle going at a high speed. There are usually three phases in a car-pedestrian accident: the initial impact, the trajectory, and the ground contact. The distance from the initial point of the hit to the resting place of the pedestrian is known as the “throw distance.” The higher the speed of the car, the larger the throw distance is.

If a pedestrian is standing when a car strikes him head-on, the following will happen:

  • Initial impact: The car bumper will hit the leg or the knee joint. The thigh will connect with the edge of the hood. The body contours to the front of the car and is carried.
  • The trajectory: The lower body is thrown forward, and the upper body is thrown relative to the car. The head will hit the hood or windshield, and typically the pedestrian will separate from the car.
  • Ground contact: The pedestrian will then fall to the ground.

The point of contact depends on the height of the car and the height of the pedestrian.

In some tragic instances, most often seen with buses or larger vehicles, the pedestrian is knocked down by the crash, and the vehicle rolls over him or her.

The Types of Injuries Sustained in a Car-Pedestrian Accident

Most pedestrians hit by a car are hit on the side as they are crossing the road. Many of these accidents happen when the car is driving at about 25mph or less. The most common injuries are:

  • Head injuries: The main cause of pedestrian fatalities. Head injuries can include skull fractures, concussions, hemorrhages, and intracranial swelling. Head injuries often occur when the pedestrian’s head hits the hood of the vehicle, the windshield, or a surrounding hard surface, like the ground.
  • Lower body injuries: Hip and pelvis fractures, abrasions, torn knee ligaments, and bone fractures are usually sustained when the pedestrian makes contact with the front bumper and the hood, or strikes the ground.
  • Torso injuries: These tend to happen with bigger cars, and involve the rib cage, liver, and lungs. Ruptures to the organs can be fatal if not treated immediately.

The worst pedestrian injuries are caused by the direct impact with the car, not when the pedestrian falls onto the road. The type and severity of the injuries will usually depend on the following:

  • Where the pedestrian was standing relative to the front of the car
  • The speed of the car
  • The type and shape of car
  • The type of bumper, hood, and windshield
  • The age and height of the pedestrian

Tips to Avoid Getting Hurt During a Crash

There is no full-proof method of avoiding an injury when a car crashes into your body. (We wish there was.) And unless you know in advance that you’re about to be hit, it’s hard to prepare for it. Usually, you’re caught completely off-guard, or you see the vehicle a split-second before it strikes you. If you do, there are a few ways that may help you reduce or avoid an injury during a crash. If you can, try to:

  • Protect your head: You can heal a broken arm, but a head injury can result in deadly consequences. If you’re about to be hit by a car, do your best to protect your head by covering it with your arms. Position yourself so that the car’s impact does not come close to your head.
  • Get on top of the hood: This might sound scary and dangerous, and it is. But it’s still safer than ending up under the tires of a car. When hit by a car, do your best to roll to the top by jumping (obviously do not do this if you are being hit by a truck as it will not work.)
  • Go for the glass: New cars have shatter-proof glass, which means it’s safer to hit the windshield because it will absorb the impact.

Still, the odds that you’ll avoid all injury after being struck by a moving vehicle are slim to none. If this traumatic event happens to you, we strongly recommend speaking to a lawyer. You might be in a world of pain, and have serious medical bills piling up with seemingly no way to pay them.

Yes; you can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance yourself, but in our experience, most people who try to “go it alone” end up frustrated and disillusioned. It’s better to begin right from the start, and contact a team of dedicated New Jersey pedestrian injury attorneys. Like our team at Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C.

You do not need to fight a battle after undergoing a traumatic accident alone. We will hold the parties at fault accountable, and work to get you all the compensation you need and deserve. Contact us at (609) 240-0040 for a free consultation.

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Posted in: Pedestrian Accident

The firm’s principals, Gabriel R. Lependorf and David E. Silverstein, have each been representing injured victims in the State of New Jersey for over twenty years.

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