Where Do Broadside Collisions Most Commonly Occur?By Stewart J. Guss on October 25th, 2019
Do you break out in a cold sweat every time you drive through an intersection? That’s a reasonable reaction if you’ve ever been t-boned by a bad driver. Once you’ve been the victim of a broadside crash, it’s difficult to feel confident when cars are coming at you from all directions. There’s always a chance that one of them will miss a stop sign or run a red light or simply refuse to yield to your right of way.
When a bad driver speeds through an intersection, you must relinquish all control to his or her reckless decisions. Some drivers get a thrill out of disrespecting another driver’s right of way. They ignore speed limits, traffic signs, and red lights. Instead of slowing down as a traffic signal transitions from green to yellow, some drivers ram the gas pedal to make it through even faster.
Bad drivers are self-centered and reckless. They make you and everyone else in the intersection a victim of their negligence. When you feel safe enough to enter an intersection, you never see a bad driver coming. By the time you do, it’s often too late to avoid a broadside crash and the serious and catastrophic injuries that can change your life FOREVER.
Intersections: Planned Points of Conflict
In discussing broadside accidents, you can’t avoid talking about intersections. That’s where most side-impact accidents occur. They place cars in the perfect position for one to crash into the side of another. Intersections are exactly as the Federal Highway Administration describes them: “planned points of conflict.” Accordingly, intersection collisions are one of the unplanned consequences.
Planners, engineers, and architects put a lot of thought into roads and intersections. They design and build them to promote and control interaction among vehicles, trucks, bicycles, and pedestrians. To accommodate the anticipated traffic, they enhance most intersections with signals, signs, and pavement markings. Unfortunately, even the most ingenious safety controls, traffic signals, and signs do nothing to eliminate the inevitable human factor.
Broadside Accidents and Intersections
You may know a broadside accident as a “T-Bone,” side-impact, or right-angle collision. All of these terms describe the dynamic that occurs when the front of one vehicle crashes into the side of another vehicle. That sounds simple enough, but there’s more to it than that:
- A Side-impact crash occurs when one vehicle hits another at any point along the side of the vehicle.
- Broadside accidents also occur in parking lots and residential streets when one driver negligently backs up his car and strikes the side of another car.
- Side impact crashes don’t always end in a right-angle, “T-Bone” formation. The impact is often angular when a crash occurs while a driver is completing a left turn or right turn.
- When vehicles differ in size, weight, and height, instead of just hitting a car’s side, larger vehicles sometimes crash into the side-glass along with the upper door and roof.
- Passengers in the smaller vehicles sustain serious and fatal injuries more often than passengers in the larger vehicle.
- When a large truck–10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight or greater–broadsides a car, the injuries are sometimes catastrophic or fatal regardless of the safety measures taken.
- An intersection is any controlled or uncontrolled point where two lanes of travel intersect.
- Broadside accidents also occur at intersections with public and private driveways, parking lots, and other points of roadway entry.
The Human Factor
Most broadside collisions occur at intersections because they bring together good and bad drivers from four different directions. Speeding, drinking, drug-influenced, and distracted drivers travel through the same intersections as grandmas, commuters, and parents driving with children. No traffic signals, laws, or safety standards can separate good drivers from really bad ones. While safe, sober drivers are statistically more likely to follow the rules, those operators whom the NHSTA calls risky drivers simply don’t or won’t.
Risky drivers take chances that safer drivers consider reckless. They speed, text while driving, and engage in other unsafe behaviors. Some commit simultaneous bad-driving acts. Distracted drivers are often so engaged with digital devices, they miss critical traffic cues and don’t pay attention to what other drivers are doing. Drowsy drivers fall asleep at the wheel and never realize they’re headed for a crash.
Drugs and alcohol often inspire and encourage bad drivers to speed, run red lights and disregard other vehicles traveling through an intersection. The official DUI blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent is a legal indicator of intoxication. BACs at lower levels also challenge the brain to think, reason, and function–abilities that are critical to safe driving. Drunk Drivers like this are all over our roads, making a serious injury to another driver not just a risk, but an inevitability.
As drivers age, they experience more numerous navigation issues at intersections. Problems occur due to vision changes and medication side-effects. Medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease also contribute to accidents when an older driver is behind the wheel.
In addition to traditional distracted behaviors involving digital devices, seniors are also more susceptible to cognitive distraction involving inattentiveness caused by daydreaming or interacting with a passenger. Older drivers also experience gap-judgment problems where they underestimate the speed or distance of oncoming vehicles.
Drivers With Bad Attitudes
A research study and focus group conducted by the Federal Highway Administration determined that some young adult drivers simply had bad attitudes. Some drivers made a conscious decision to run a red light and enter an intersection. For some, red light-running was their “default” driving mode. Others entered busy intersections by “force.” When encountering these drivers, vehicle operators with the legal right of way can either yield to their bad behavior, or crash. The study found this attitude prevalent in males 18 to 35 years old. Older drivers and women were more likely to follow traditional traffic laws. If an intersection presented a problem, they sometimes choose an alternate route to their destination. In either event, there’s simply no way of knowing if the oncoming car ahead of you is being piloted by an angry out-of-control driver or someone out to put others at risk.
Injuries From Side-Impact Crashes
During a broadside accident the striking vehicle’s size, weight, impact, and speed determine what happens to the occupants of the side-impacted vehicle. Side reinforcement, seat belts, child safety seats, and other safety devices reduce injuries and minimize deaths due to vehicle intrusion, but they can’t prevent them completely.
An “Injury Epidemiology” study published by the National Institutes of Health analyzed side-impact accident injury severity. They determined that passengers seated on the side where the impact occurred were more likely to sustain serious or fatal injuries. Left rear passengers were also likely to sustain more serious injuries than the driver, as drivers had more advanced safety technology
Intersection Crash Statistics Tell the Same Story Year-After-Year
Intersections present a known safety hazard. It’s clear based on National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and IIHS analyses of 2017 Crash Data.
- Nationally, side-impacts caused 5,622 deaths in 2017. That’s 24 percent of all traffic fatalities.
- Smaller vehicle passengers in side-impact crashes sustain more fatal injuries more frequently than those in other vehicle types: Pickup trucks, 785 fatalities; SUVs, 855 fatalities; Cars, 3,823 fatalities.
- In Texas, 724 people lost their lives due to Intersection accidents in 2017.
- In Louisiana, 141 people died because of intersection accidents in 2017.
When vehicle occupants survive a serious side-impact crash, they often deal with serious and catastrophic injuries. The injury severity increases when the impact involves a vehicle mismatch where one vehicle is significantly larger, higher, or heavier than the other. Passengers involved in the most serious side-impact collisions deal with serious head trauma, which may include traumatic brain injury. They also sustained upper body trauma which may also involve spinal cord damage and internal organ damage.
Vehicle Safety Enhancements Are Great, But…
Side-crash related injuries tend to be severe as vehicle sides don’t incorporate the same protections as the front and rear crumple zones. During ongoing side-impact crashworthiness testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found several consistencies related to side-impact collisions and injuries.
- It’s difficult to protect passengers during side-impact accidents as there is very little room between the crash impact area and the passengers’ seats.
- Side airbags and curtains reduce injuries by protecting passengers on impact and spreading the force so that it’s not concentrated in one area of a person’s body.
- Studies of real-world events confirm the value of side-impact crashworthiness testing, consequent safety upgrades, and vehicle safety ratings.
- A “good” safety rating meant that drivers in a side-impact crash were 70 percent less likely to die than in a vehicle with a “poor” rating. Drivers in cars rated “acceptable” were 64 percent less likely to die. Those in vehicles with a “marginal” rating were 49 percent less likely to die.
- These statistics show that, even in the safest vehicles, side-impacts still cause severe injuries and deaths.
Safety enhancements over the past decade have reduced the chances of severe injury due to side-impacts. When used properly, airbag curtains and improved child safety seats reduce the chance of injury in some side-impact events. Newer vehicles have reinforced passenger compartments that protect passengers from serious impacts.
These enhancements do little to protect vehicle occupants when a broadside impact is forceful enough to cause intrusion into the passenger’s space. This often occurs when a larger vehicle crashes into the side of a much smaller vehicle. It’s a common occurrence during a crash with an SUV or a large truck. An SUV’s higher bumper places it at side window level where there’s a limited support structure. This is even more common with large trucks. Their speed and weight easily overcome vehicle side safety enhancements.
Negligent Drivers Won’t Change; We Must Change Intersections
National and local safety agencies have spent years discussing intersection accidents. In the past, national agencies and local communities have created public awareness campaigns such as “If You Run a Red Light“ and “Red Light Means Stop.“ Cities have increased fines for running red lights, drunk driving, and other intersection-related violations. They’ve installed red-light cameras, which have proven somewhat successful in reducing the problem. Still, 24 percent of all accident fatalities occur at intersections. Clearly, the problem isn’t going away.
Intersections have caused consistent problems for so long, safety agencies now agree that our current system of intersections is a big factor in the intersection accident problem. They’ve worked through the tedious, time-consuming process of getting formal recommendations on the books. At present, there are multiple solutions just waiting for implementation. Some communities have these and other projects and intersection enhancements in the planning or construction stage.
- Proven safety countermeasures: A list of 20 recommended changes that have been proven to prevent intersection accidents
- Signalized intersection safety measures: Multiple techniques for reducing intersection conflicts
- Proven countermeasures such as roundabouts: Restructuring intersections with a circular hub, lower speed limits, and single lanes instead of allowing multiple-lane streets to cross paths
- Modification of yellow light change intervals; Lengthening the yellow-light period to give vehicles more time to move through an intersection before the light turns red.
Why You Need a Lawyer if You’re Injured in a Broadside Crash
Until we can change technology, behaviors, and infrastructure to prevent broadside crashes, we are largely stuck with using the legal system to recover compensation from the people responsible for causing them.
Broadside crash injury cases can be complicated from the very beginning. At the very least, you should consult a car accident attorney to discuss your legal options. With an auto liability claim, there are too many opportunities for something to go wrong. You need someone in your corner who’s willing to fight for you.
Once the other guy drives away, anything can happen. He might not accept responsibility for his actions. If he does, he may or may not have insurance coverage. If he has insurance and his company agrees to pay you, his liability limit may be too low.
Drivers with bad histories often neglect their insurance responsibilities. If they have insurance, they often have state minimum liability limits. If you sustain serious injuries, the other person’s liability insurance will likely be too low to pay for your medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages and other expenses.
That’s a resolvable issue if you have Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverages. Your own company pays your liability claim but they control everything you do. They can force you to produce your medical records on their time schedule and insist on recorded statements when and where they choose. They can deny your claim or your coverage if you don’t cooperate.
Our roads are littered with unskilled, unstable, or downright crazy drivers. These motorists cause property damage, serious injury, and death to innocent drivers and pedestrians that share the road. If you or someone you love has been harmed by someone like this, contact a skilled legal representative to hold these drivers accountable.