In Washington D.C., confusing intersections can lead to a high rate of side-impact or T-bone crashes. These types of car crashes happen when one vehicle hits another directly in the side, with the two cars forming the shape of a T. The crashes are dangerous. One study found a total of 32 percent of fatal car crashes were attributed to T-bone accidents, despite the fact T-bone crashes accounted for only 19 percent of the total number of crashes.
T-bone crashes are so dangerous because the striking vehicle intrudes into the section of the car where passenger and driver are located. There is no big bumper or hood, to absorb part of the blow from impact. The impact of the crash must be absorbed by the body, which means a high rate of death and serious injuries.
Children, in particular, are vulnerable to being hurt in T-bone accidents. In fact, kids routinely suffer severe and sometimes fatal injuries because car seats and child restraint systems are not necessarily doing enough to protect a child's head and abdomen from the force of a side-impact accident.
Children Face Side-Impact Crash Risks
The dangers to children involved in side-impact crashes cannot be overstated. A report from Association for Advancement of Automotive Medicine warned 23 percent of children in one study of side-impact crashes sustained injuries which were classified as falling within the category of "clinically significant."
Of these children, 39 percent sustained injuries to the head, which could result in traumatic brain injury (TBI). There were injuries to extremities suffered by 22 percent of children. Abdominal injuries afflicted 17 percent of kids in the side-impact crash.
The greatest injuries to children in side-impact accidents occur to kids who are sitting on the side where the car hits the vehicle, because the force of the accident is concentrated on their location. Children passengers on both sides of the vehicle, however, face elevated injury and fatality risks in side-impact accidents, regardless of their position in the car. Injuries can even occur in slow-moving side impact crashes or relatively minor T-bone collisions.
The overall fatality rate for children in side impact crashes is 30 percent, while the fatality rate in head-on collisions is 17 percent. Further, while 15 percent of kids ages five to nine injured in front-impact collisions had a Maximum Abbreviated Injury Score (MAIS) of two or higher, 41 percent of kids in side-impact collisions had at least a score of two. An MAIS is set based on severity of injuries, with level two considered "moderate" injuries. The highest level on the MAIS scale is nine.
With such a significant risk to kids, car seats and child restraint systems protect the head and trunk when a T-bone crash occurs. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) first proposed crash tests to measure car seat performance in side impact crashes in 2014, so hopefully forthcoming changes in car seat design and manufacturing will result in fewer injuries and fatalities.