Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Death of a Car Driver in 7/10ths of a Second

I’ve blogged a couple of articles over the last day or so on driving, speeding, getting tickets, evading tickets – even evading getting stopped in the first place. But now I just want to stop and point out a chilling reality – speed kills:

"John Collins, 38, of 210 Hill Place, was instantly killed last night when his car struck a tree on the main road, two miles east... "

Daily newspapers carry thousands of new items similar to this every year. It is a tragically common form of death, but one of which very little is known.

Distinguished medical experts have written detailed post-mortem reports on crash victims. The primary reason for these reports was to reduce fatalities by making cars safer, more ‘crash proof’. Out of it have come recommendations for safety belts, different types of steering wheel etc. But out of the report has also come something else; the terrifying picture of what happens to steel and glass, to flesh and blood, in those last split seconds when a human being is hurled into eternity.

This is a slow motion, split second reconstruction of what happens when a car travelling at 55 mph crashes into a solid, immovable tree:

1/10th OF A SECOND:
The front bumper and chromium radiator grille collapse. Slivers of steel penetrate the tree to depths of one and a half inches and more.

2/10th’s OF A SECOND:

The bonnet crumples as it rises, smashing into the windscreen. Spinning rear wheels leave the ground. The radiator disintegrates. The wings come into contact with the tree, forcing the rear pads to splay out over the front door.

In the same second tenth of a second:
The heavy structural members of the car begin to act as a brake on the terrific forward momentum of the body, but the driver’s body continues to move forward at the vehicles original speed. This means of force of 10 times gravity his body weight 3200. His legs, ramrod-straight, snap at the knee joint.

3/10th’s OF A SECOND:
The driver's body is now off the seat, torso upright, broken knees pressing against the dashboard. The plastic and steel frame of the steering wheel begins to bend under his terrible death grip. His head is now near the sun visor, his chest above the steering column.

4/10th’s OF A SECOND:
The cars front 24 inches have been completely demolished, but the rear end is still travelling at an estimated speed of 35 miles per hour. The driver's body is still travelling at 55mph. The engine block crushes into the tree. The rear of the car, like a bucking horse, rises high enough to scrape bark of low branches.

5/10th’s OF A SECOND:
The driver's fear frozen hands bend the steering column into an almost vertical position. The force of gravity impales him on the steering column. Jagged steel punctures lungs and arteries. Blood spurts into the lung.

6/10th’s OF A SECOND:
So great is the force of impact that the driver's feet are ripped from his tightly laced shoes. The brake pedal sheers at the floorboards. The chassis bends in the middle. The driver's head smashes into the windscreen. The rear of the car begins its downward fall, with spinning wheels digging into the ground.

7/10th’s OF A SECOND:
The entire, writhing body of the car is forced out of shape. Hinges tear. Doors spring open. In one last convulsion the seat rams forward, pinning the driver against the cruel steel of the steering column. Blood leaps from his mouth. Shock has frozen his heart. He is now dead.



This afternoon – Death of a Motorcyclist in 1.42 Seconds

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