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Car Accident Impact: The Effect of Speed

How Speed Affects Car Accident Impact

Many factors can affect the impact of a car accident, but speed is one of the most important. The effect of speed on car accident impact can be calculated using Newton’s Second Law of Motion as a guiding principle.

Newton’s Second Law of Motion says the force (impact) of an object (e.g. a car) on another object (i.e. the car it hits) is equal to its mass times its acceleration (measured using speed as a factor).

States and cities set speed limits at the maximum speed a car can travel under ideal conditions while still being safe. At posted speed limits under ideal conditions, a driver should have enough time to try to avoid collisions. When you go over the speed limit, however, not only is it harder to avoid collisions but the impact of the accident will also be more significant.

The problem is, the increase in impact is not proportionate to the increase in speed. Let’s say the speed limit is 20 mph and you are going 40 mph. If you strike another car, the force of that impact is not just 100% greater. In reality, the force of the impact increases with the square of the difference in speed, so the impact would be four-fold.

Absorbing the Impact

Now that you know how speed affects car accident impact, it’s important also to know how that impact is absorbed in a collision. In an accident, the lighter and smaller car will absorb more of the impact than the larger car. This is the reason why truck accidents are often fatal for the driver in the passenger car but not the trucker. Also, it’s good to keep this principle of physics in mind when reviewing crash test ratings and when in the market for a new car.

Why Impact Matters in Car Accident Claims

In disputed car accident claims, attorneys sometimes have to pull together evidence like pictures of the collision, clocked speeds, and car weights to determine which car was speeding or caused the accident.

Beyond just getting your claim paid, car accident impact will greatly affect the severity of your injuries. On average, it takes about 400 lbs. of pressure to break a rib. In a severe car accident, the pressure of just hitting the steering wheel can be significantly greater. Thus, it’s important to understand the physics of car crashes when filing an insurance claim. Knowing the force of impact in your accident can indicate how the cars collided and the extent of your injuries. Insurance companies sometimes try to deny bodily injury claims in fender benders if the car was not seriously damaged. What they fail to recognize is the human body and the bumper of your car can withstand very different impacts. While your bumper may have survived with a small dent, it could have created enough impact to severely injure you.

Whenever filing a car accident claim, it’s a good idea to speak with an attorney, especially if the insurance company disputes liability. This is a common tactic, but don’t let it discourage you. A seasoned Arlington Heights car accident attorney can thoroughly evaluate the facts of your claim and pursue compensation accordingly.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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