When a T-bone accident happens, a car going in one direction is hit broadside by a vehicle from a cross street. The impact occurs at a perpendicular angle. An experienced traffic accident lawyer knows these crashes usually happen at intersections or in situations when someone pulls out of a driveway before looking to see if oncoming traffic is approaching.
Drivers and passengers are at risk of injury or death in a side-impact car crash. The specific risk faced by people in the struck vehicle depends upon their position in the car. Those sitting on the side of the vehicle where the impact occurs face a significantly greater risk of death or serious injury even though there are better safety standards in place to ensure maximum protection for people sitting closest to the impact.
Protecting Passengers in T-Bone Collisions
Association for Advancement of Automotive Medicine and Virginia Tech published reports on risks faced by passengers in T-Bone crashes who are sitting opposite the side of impact. People in the car on the opposite side of impact are called "far-side" passengers and people on the side of the impact are called "near-side" passengers.
Since 1997, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 214 has established requirements for vehicle side panel safety designed to reduce risks of injury for near-side passengers. There are no similar federal regulations in place designed specifically to reduce the chances of a far-side passenger being injured or killed.
Federal laws focus on the problem of protecting the person who is closest to the impact point and there is good reason to pass safety rules to reduce their crash risk. Near-side passengers account for 76 percent of fatalities and 57 percent of serious injuries sustained in a T-bone crash. Far-side passengers account for 43 percent of injury and 24 percent of people killed in side impact accidents.
While far-side passengers may be a small percentage of those killed or badly injured in broadside collisions, there are not a small number of victims. Each year, an average of 17,000 far-side passengers are hurt or killed in side impact or rollover accidents.
Far side passengers typically sustain chest or head injuries. Twenty-one percent of far side passengers who sustained injuries experienced head trauma and 33 percent injured the chest. These injuries routinely occurred when the far-side passenger's head or chest came into contact with the interior of the other side of the car.
If seat belts were designed differently or if side airbags were used in vehicles, these far-side passengers could perhaps avoid injuries causing impairment or death. A v-shaped four-point seat belt is one possible solution for keeping far-side passengers in place, as is the use of pretension seat belts.
Steps need to be taken to develop the most effective approach to protecting all passengers in T-bone accidents and regulators should focus on preventing injuries among both far-side and near-side passengers.