People talk about head-on collisions as being the worst – and with good reason – but head-on crashes are by no means the only kind of car collision that carries with it a high risk of injury or death. Another type of collision that ranks among the most dangers is what is commonly referred to as a “T-bone” accident – the side-impact crash. Named for the popular steak, a T-bone crash is when one vehicle is struck in the side by a second vehicle at a perpendicular angle. Picture a car moving through an intersection when another vehicle enters the intersection on the crossing roadway, entering the intersection from one side or the other of the first car and striking the first vehicle full in the side. Most common at intersections, T-bone crashes can be deadly.
T-Bone Accidents are a Leading Cause of Traffic Fatalities
Traffic accidents can be deadly affairs – they cost more than 36,000 Americans their lives in 2019. More than half of traffic deaths involving passenger vehicle occupants happen in head-on collisions – full frontal impacts, nose to nose. However, more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities in crashes involving passenger vehicles occur in side-impact collisions – in other words, the classic T-bone accident. When a vehicle hits another vehicle from the side, the struck vehicle does not have the crumple zone that provides protection in frontal collisions. Cars are designed to absorb impacts from the front and from the rear, using the trunk for rear-end accidents and the engine compartment, among other features, for front-end accidents to help absorb the force of the collision. When it comes to side-impact collisions, no such crumple zone exists to prevent the exterior of the vehicle from being pushed into the passenger compartment by the force of the collision. One study contends that vehicles struck from the front have five times the energy absorption as vehicles provide in a side impact. The lack of crumple zones on the side of vehicles simply adds to the lethality of side-impact collisions.
T-Bone Accidents Often Result in Severe Injuries
Side-impact collisions are responsible for about 27% of all traffic fatalities annually nationwide. Such impacts are particularly dangerous because they tend to collapse the exterior of the vehicle into the passenger compartment, often crushing the driver and any passengers. The results can have a devastating effect on the occupants of a passenger vehicle that is struck from the side, with common injuries from such accidents including:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries, including serious concussions or even objects penetrating the skull into the brain
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe lacerations, abrasions, and contusions
- Internal injuries
These injuries can produce long-lasting negative effects, including paralysis, loss of brain function, comas, or even death.
Another risk of a T-bone collision that may be even worse than the initial impact is the collision pushing the stricken vehicle in the path of oncoming traffic. This can easily result in further collisions that simply exacerbate any injuries from the initial impact, even leading to often-fatal ejection of occupants from the stricken vehicle, especially among back-seat passengers, who often are not using seat belts.