Side impact or T-bone accidents occur when one vehicle traveling straight is struck by another vehicle in the side. These accidents frequently happen at intersections or when a driver pulls out of a driveway or parking spot without looking. The consequences are serious, with an estimated 10,000 fatalities each year resulting from side-impact crashes.
One big reason side-impact accidents are so deadly is this type of crash is significantly more likely to cause traumatic brain injury, or TBI. Head injuries can cause immediate death or total and permanent brain damage, or can result in a variety of other lasting complications.
Side-Impact Accidents and Brain Injury Risks
Head-injuries and damage to the brain can occur even when nothing actually strikes the head. In a crash with lots of force, as many side-impact accidents are, the brain can strike against the skull and can bruise, begin bleeding, or otherwise become damaged.
Annals of Emergency Medicine published a study from University of Rochester aimed at determining risks of traumatic brain injury in t-bone or side impact crashes. Those involved in T-bone accidents were found to be three times as likely to develop head-injuries from the crash as compared with motorists in any other collision type including head-on accidents.
Traumatic injury to the brain is a leading reason for deaths in side-impact crashes, and high rates of TBI helps to explain why side impact collisions tend to be deadlier than other crash types. Collision data shows in typical side impact accident cases, traumatic brain injury causes from 51 to 74 percent of fatalities. In multi-vehicle side-impact crashes, traumatic brain injury causes from 41 to 64 percent of fatalities.
Women have higher rate of brain injuries due to T-bone crashes as compared with men. This is true of both female drivers and female passengers. It is believed men, in general, have more strength in the neck so are less likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries.
Better head protection could have a significant impact on reducing risks of traumatic brain injuries in side-impact crashes. If more effective protection was implemented as a standard feature on vehicles, TBI risks could decline as much as 61 percent and the risk of deadly traumatic brain injury in side impact crashes could go down 23.5 percent. As many as 2,230 deaths and critical injuries could be avoided annually with better head protection.
Under current conditions, medical professionals and car crash victims should consider involvement in a side-impact crash to be a serious risk factor for the development of traumatic brain injury. This is true even when patients involved in a collision exhibit no immediate symptoms of traumatic brain injury. Symptoms sometimes do not develop right away, but delays in treatment could exacerbate damage to the brain if there is internal brain bleeding.
Those who sustain traumatic brain injuries should follow guidelines for safe recovery. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests getting plenty of rest, taking strong steps to protect the head and avoid future risk of injury, refraining from alcohol use, taking only physician-prescribed drugs, and refraining from driving or bicycling until a doctor gives the OK.