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The impact of an accident depends on many factors – the relative size of the vehicles involved, driver behavior, and even the time of day. One of the most important factors, however, is vehicle speed. The relative speed of vehicles involved in a crash plays a significant role in a victim’s injuries. Learn how high-speed and low-speed collisions affect your body.
Most people don’t readily associate low-speed crashes with a serious injury. In fact, most of us call low-speed crashes “fender benders” or something similar. While it’s true that low-speed crashes are associated with less severe injuries, even slow speeds can lead to serious injury. This holds especially true for pedestrians.
According to a report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, even small incremental changes in speed can make a big impact in subsequent injuries. One of the most significant findings states that at speeds below 15 miles per hour, risks of serious injury were low, even for pedestrians. However, as speed increased beyond 25 miles per hour, even small increases led to substantial changes in risk. For example, the death rate for pedestrians doubled when speed increased from 25 mph to 35 mph. This should be a compelling call to action for drivers to adhere to posted speed limits, especially in urban environments.
Drivers involved in low-speed crashes most often report soft tissue injuries such as whiplash. However, motorists and passengers may also experience more serious afflictions, especially if they have pre-existing health conditions. Stress-related and traumatic heart attacks or exacerbation of other injuries can affect victims of low-speed crashes.
While low- speed crashes tend to be less serious than high-speed collisions, they’re nothing to take lightly, especially when they involve pedestrians. Motorists must take care to slow down in urban and populated areas to assure both their own safety and the safety of others on the road. You can experience more serious injuries at slower speeds than you might think.
In contrast, high-speed collisions occur when a vehicle travels in excess of 30 miles per hour. These accidents often occur on highways, freeways, and other high-speed routes. When a car is traveling at high speeds, drivers are less likely to have control of their vehicle and take corrective actions to prevent an accident.
The severity of these injuries can depend on the speed and other vehicles involved. For example, single-car accidents like rollovers most often occur at high speeds and can lead to permanently incapacitating injury. Similarly, crashes between disparate vehicles – such as a compact car hitting an SUV or a car hitting a large commercial vehicle – can lead to much more severe damage, especially at high speeds. Generally speaking, the faster the speed, the more likely a crash will lead to serious or fatal injury.
While higher posted speed limits don’t necessarily lead to more crashes, several studies show that the incidence of freeway related deaths increase with higher speed limits. The faster you’re traveling on a road, the more likely you are to experience serious or fatal consequences from a resulting crash.
Both high- and low-speed crashes come with risks. While high-speed accidents are more likely to result in a fatality, even crashes at speeds as low as 30 miles per hour can lead to serious injuries. The best way to protect yourself on the road is to follow all posted speed limits and to drive defensively.