Head-on collision

— Erick Tyson von Mueller

A head-on collision is a traffic collision where the front ends of two vehicles hit each other in opposite directions. This contrasts with for example a side-impact crash or rear-end crash.

Head-on crashes consistently account for an higher percentage of fatal vehicle collisions compared to their frequency of occurrence. This means that they are an often fatal type of road traffic accident.

The relative velocity of vehicles traveling in opposite directions is high. For example, a head-on crash between two identical vehicles traveling at 50 mph is equivalent to a moving vehicle running into a stationary one at 100 mph. Other factors such as a lighter vehicle colliding with a heavier one can produce more or less damage.

All car crashes are frightening and have the potential to cause painful injuries and serious damage. Even a minor fender bender could cause thousands of dollars in vehicle repairs, while the victim could also suffer from debilitating whiplash, making him or her unable to go to work.

However, head-on collisions tend to produce severe bodily injuries and property damage. Because the losses sustained in these types of collisions are particularly large, it is even more important for victims to contact an experienced Las Vegas car accident attorney who can represent their interests, during settlement proceedings with the insurance companies, or in the courtroom.

In this scene from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, The Humungus, in a last defiant act of reckless driving, has collided his vehicle head-on into Max's big rig, causing his vehicle to literally fly apart. I give the "7" painted on the side of the big rig's tank a 5/5.

Common causes of head-on crashes

You may imagine a scenario in which one driver was attempting to pass a slower vehicle and in doing so, collided with another vehicle traveling in the other direction. While these types of accidents do occur, most head-on car crashes are caused by one driver accidentally drifting across the centerline of the road.

In most cases, this accidental drifting is the result of one party’s negligent actions, including:

  • Falling asleep at the wheel;
  • Driving while distracted;
  • Speeding; and
  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Although driver negligence is the most common cause of head-on collisions, these types of accidents can also be caused by:

  • Poor weather conditions, including icy roads and fog;
  • Mechanical failure, whether as a result of a manufacturer defect or the driver’s lack of vehicle maintenance; and
  • A driver’s attempt to swerve out of the way of road debris or an animal.

Regardless of the underlying cause, these kinds of crashes almost always have painful and costly consequences such as catastrophic injuries and even deadly injuries.

Potential injuries

A negligent driver is usually unaware of the impending collision (due to his or her distraction) and makes no attempt to brake or swerve out of the way before impact. This means that head-on collisions often occur at high speeds. As a result, injuries sustained in these types of crashes are often severe and include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries — A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is usually caused by a person’s head striking another object in the vehicle, such as a window or the steering wheel. This kind of blunt force trauma can result in bleeding or swelling in the brain and may not be diagnosed at the time of the accident.
  • Spinal cord damage — Spinal cord damage can also occur if the force involved was great enough to fracture the vertebrae. When pieces of the broken spine puncture the spinal cord, paralysis can follow.
  • Burns — Burns can be caused by exploded fuel tanks and engine fires, and can lead to permanent scarring and disfigurement that require multiple painful surgeries.
  • Severe whiplash — Whiplash is caused by the victim’s head snapping forward and backward upon impact. This abrupt motion can cause the muscles and ligaments in the neck to become strained or torn, leading to restricted movement and extreme pain. While apparently less severe than other injuries, sever whiplash can prevent working or leading a normal life.
  • Fractures to the sternum and ribs — These fractures occur when a victim strikes a steering wheel, dashboard, or seat belt at high speed. These types of injuries are notorious for taking a significant amount of time to heal.
  • Crushed legs and hips — These injuries can occur if a victim’s lower extremities become crushed or trapped beneath the wreckage as a result of the impact.
  • Internal organ damage — Internal organ damage can result if a person’s torso comes into sudden contact with another object during the crash. If left untreated, organ damage can lead to internal bleeding, which can be deadly.

Unfortunately, this is not a comprehensive list of possible injuries. A victim could sustain all of these injuries and more as a result of a head-on car accident.

These injuries can also be ruinously expensive to treat. For example, victim may need to pay the bills for ambulance services, emergency treatment, diagnostic tests, multiple surgeries, prescription medications, and physical therapy, all for the immediate medical response to stabilize the victim after the accident, not including bills for treatments during the long path to recovery.

However, when plaintiffs can demonstrate that their injuries were the result of another party’s negligence, they may be able to collect compensation to cover all of these costs, in addition to damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

How do I prove negligence after a head-on collision?

In most head-on collisions, it is clear that at least one person was clearly negligent.

However, proving this assertion at trial can still be difficult, making it especially crucial for injured parties to hire a competent attorney who has experience in the courtroom.

Furthermore, the large costs for treatment of bodily injuries associated with head-on crashes means that an experienced attorney is helpful to represent your interests with the insurance company.

Preventive measures to avoid head-on collisions

There are things that can be done to reduce the occurrence of head-on collisions, and to minimize their effects.

Local and state governments have instituted a series of precautionary measures, including:

  • Installing centerline rumble strips on two-lane roads to help awaken drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel;
  • Providing center two-way left turn lanes;
  • Creating a narrow buffer median between lanes;
  • Using more alternating passing lanes;
  • Installing median barriers;
  • Enhancing the delineation of sharp curves;
  • Improving highway design;
  • Providing better pavement markings;
  • Constructing skid-resistant pavement surfaces; and
  • Improving shoulder slopes, paving, and edge drops.

Unfortunately, despite these efforts, an alarming number of head-on collisions continue to occur across the nation.

This leaves thousands of accident victims struggling with painful treatments, as well as expensive medical bills.

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Erick Tyson von Mueller profile image

Erick Tyson von Mueller

Erick is a researcher and life-long student of the arts. He graduated from university after studying intelligence and fell into the deep state. He has surfaced now and again to run a drive-through coffee shop (!), an award-winning live music venue in Austin, Texas (!), and a cement block factory in Uruguay (!), among other adventures in a life otherwise spent performing analysis. His speciality remains state security and the philosophy of the prison world.