Web Traffic School
How to Minimize the Consequences of a Collision
A goal of any driver is to avoid crashes or injuries. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. If a collision appears inevitable, you should attempt to minimize the consequences. You must plan strategies before such a situation arises.
In any motor vehicle crash there are at least two collisions. The first occurs between the vehicle and whatever it strikes -- another vehicle, an abutment, a tree or some other object. The second collision occurs a fraction of a second later between the occupants and some part of the vehicle's interior. Remember that the vehicle decelerates rapidly in a collision, and, if not secured, the occupants continue to move. The first causes vehicular and property damage. The second may result in occupant injury or death.


If you use the safety equipment in your vehicle properly, you can reduce the possibility of death or injury. The more secure you are in the car, the less chance you have of being injured. Think of yourself as a fragile object that you want to package and ship. You wouldn't throw an egg into a box, hoping it would arrive undamaged. Nor would you want the contents to spill out during shipment. This analogy applies just as easily to you and your car.


Locked doors are less likely to open in a rollover or side collision and decrease the possibility of being ejected. Wear your lap/shoulder belt drawn up snugly. Even if you are tossed around inside a vehicle in a collision, you are likely to suffer less severe injuries if you are not thrown from the vehicle in a crash.
Safety belts also keep you in place so you can control the vehicle and perhaps avoid an initial collision altogether.


If you are packaged safely inside the car, what can you do to minimize the first collision? Be constantly alert to the environment and keep a clear head. If you are able to use the vehicle's maneuverability to maintain control, in many cases you can change the nature and consequences of the collision.
Many collisions are more serious than they have to be because drivers often freeze when they see they are going to hit something. Frequently, if the driver had been able simply to veer off of the highway, the result might have been only a minor crash, or it might have been avoided entirely.
If a collision appears unavoidable, perhaps you can choose an off-road path. A head-on collision with another vehicle or an immoveable object such as a tree, pole or bridge abutment is the worst type of collision. If possible, swerve to the right side of the road when you take evasive action.
Swerving to the left side of the road to avoid a collision is more apt to bring you into the path of oncoming traffic.

If you have the opportunity to decide what to hit, choose something that gives. Select a bush or other object capable of absorbing some energy.
Another general rule is to hit an object with a glancing blow (at an angle) rather than head-on. For example, many collisions have been minor because the vehicle has sideswiped a guardrail and bounced off and the driver has maintained steering control.

If you see you are about to be involved in a crash, adjust your speed and steer so you can hit, or be hit, at or behind the rear wheels. Such actions substantially reduce impact and allow the vehicle to spin instead of absorbing the force of the vehicle that strikes it.


No one can predict in advance exactly what to do to minimize the effects of a collision. Each situation presents different possibilities. Time is limited in emergencies, so it becomes impossible to judge what each person can and cannot do when a collision appears inevitable.
By accepting the fact that a collision can happen to you, you will be taking a step in the right direction. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Safety Facts 2002, over 6.3 million police-reported motor vehicle crashes occurred on the U.S. highways in 2002 - one every 5 seconds. On average, a person was injured in these crashes every 11 seconds, and someone was killed every 12 minutes.

Remember: Only one-tenth of a second is enough to turn a potentially fatal collision into a fender-bender.