Chase scenes filled with flashing lights, wailing sirens and screeching tires have long pumped action and drama into TV cop shows and movies about the police. In real life, the chases often end in tragedy.
A recent Miami County chase ended in a violent collision that killed the fleeing driver and the 32-year-old woman who was driving the vehicle he smashed into at high speed.
A news report says the tragic crash has sparked debate across Ohio over the conditions under which law enforcement should pursue fleeing suspects.
While that’s a topic worthy of thoughtful debate, there is really no debate over the crucial factor that makes police chases so dangerous: Speed.
The old saying that “speed kills” is as true in 2021 as it was back in the day.
A study earlier this year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Humanetics, a crash test dummy manufacturer made clear the enormous effect of speed in motor vehicle crashes.
Drivers want to save time and Ohio transportation officials try to oblige by improving traffic flow, but the cost is steep: Injury severity and the likelihood of fatalities rise dramatically when vehicles collide at higher speeds.
Diving into the data
Researchers conducted crash tests at three impact speeds: 40, 50 and 56 mph “to assess the effect of speeds on drivers,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, adding that they “learned that a small increase could make a big difference on the harm to a human body.
Researchers found that at a 40-mph impact speed, the damage was limited to the vehicle and that there was only “minimal intrusion into the driver’s space,” IIHS said.
But at 50 mph, the driver-side door opening, foot area and dashboard all sustained “noticeable deformation.”
At 56 mph, the vehicle’s interior was “significantly compromised,” and the crash test dummy’s sensors registered severe neck injuries and lower leg fractures.
At both 50 and 56 mph impact speeds, the steering wheel airbags deployed. But the violent upward movement of the steering wheel caused it to compress the bag and slam into the dummy’s head, with “a high risk of facial fractures and severe brain injury.”
“Cars are safer than they’ve ever been,” said Dr. David Harkey, IIHS president, “but nobody’s figured out how to make them defy the laws of physics.”
Think about this: If you are in an auto accident at 65 mph, the force of the impact would be the same as if you drove your vehicle off the top of a 12-story building.
Car accident injury victims and the families of those who suffer the ultimate loss in crashes can hold the person responsible for their pain and grief accountable in personal injury or wrongful death litigation.