A head-on collision involves a car that has crossed over the center dividing line or median into oncoming traffic and collides with another vehicle. Another instance in which these collisions occur is going down a one-way road the wrong way. Most head-on collisions happen on rural roads with undivided two-lane roads. One would think that most of these accidents are the result of improper passing maneuvers with such a high incidence of crashes occurring on rural roads, but surprisingly virtually all such collisions occurred in a non-passing driving situation. Factors that influence fatality in these collisions include the weight of the car and the age and sex of the driver, with a lighter car increasing the fatality risk and women and elderly drivers being higher fatality risks compared to male and younger drivers.

What is the explanation for head-on collisions?

Since an overwhelming majority of instances of head-on collisions are in non-passing situations, then it follows that typical driver error and behavior are responsible for the accidents. This includes behavior such as distracted driving, driving while sleepy, driving while intoxicated, speeding, or negotiating through less than ideal road conditions. Construction is logically believed to contribute to head-on collisions with the confusing cones, changing road patterns and signs, but research has disproved this as a major contributing factor.

Because unusual road conditions or behaviors are not an explanation for the majority of head-on collisions, it is best that governments focus on reducing these types of accidents with a focus on normal driving conditions. Some solutions have involved preventing cars from encroaching onto oncoming traffic with center lane rumble strips. These are the same strips that make noise when a car starts to drift out of the lane and onto the shoulder. Other solutions involve thermoplastic stripes, wider cross sections on two lane roads, center left turn lanes for two and four lane roads, and installing barrier medians on these roads.

Nationally, only two percent of auto accidents involve a head-on collision, but head-on collisions comprise about ten percent of auto fatalities. In the absence of a fatality, major injury is a significant risk for these types of accidents. Fortunately vehicles have been built more safely since statistics on injuries and have been measured beginning in 1979. The most common non-fatal injuries involve those to the head, chest and femur.

Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent these accidents. The most obvious is to stay alert. Driving while tired or under the influence of prescription drugs or herbs can affect your ability to respond to road conditions. Next, turn your headlights on at all times. Newer cars are equipped with daytime running lights which have been shown to reduce the incidence of accidents. Next, drive in the center of the lane. Avoid driving too close to the center line. Finally, watch your speed. Speeding makes it harder to react to other instances of driver error.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Your case may be different. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you or a loved one has been involved in a head-on collision, David K. Kremin & Associates and its affiliated law firms have handled hundreds of cases in Chicago, Illinois and throughout the United States. Please contact our firm for a free consultation. You will speak to a lawyer with 20-30 years of experience in this area. Call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800) 275-2529.