When a motor vehicle is involved in an accident, the driver and passenger's bodies react as if they travel toward the site of the impact. For example, an impact to the front left of a car during a head-on crash will cause occupants to have injuries on their left, especially if unrestrained. The driver may hit the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield, and the passenger the dashboard, windshield, or rearview mirror. Each may have significant injuries even though they hit different objects.
There may be few external marks when there are seat belts and airbags; internally, however, there may be impressive injuries to the heart and aorta. Seat belt abrasions on the shoulder and hips are common. The location of the marks helps differentiate between the driver and the passenger.
Side window glass causes a characteristic injury because it is made of tempered glass which will shatter into numerous small fragments upon impact. These fragments will cause a characteristic "dicing" pattern of lacerated-abrasions on the face, shoulders, or arms. A driver will have dicing injuries on the left side of the body and a passenger will have them on the right.
Other common injuries involve fractures of the patella (knee), femurs and ankles caused by hitting the dashboard and the extremities caught under the seat. Highspeed collisions can cause multiple severe injuries. There may be extensive skull fractures and facial lacerations, contusions, and abrasions. Common injuries to the trunk include rib and pelvic fractures with associated internal injuries. Lacerations of these internal organs may occur without associated rib fractures. If any of the occupants are ejected during a crash, obviously the injuries may be quite variable and very severe. Head trauma is common in these situations. In addition, when an occupant is ejected, a vehicle may roll over and compress the occupants, causing compressive asphyxia, often with few other injuries.
Motorcyclists usually die from head trauma. Helmets may or may not prevent serious injury, depending on the force of the impact. They may also have numerous injuries similar to pedestrians because they are so often launched unrestrained to impact with the ground or other objects.
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