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Ask A Trooper: All it takes is a second: Buckle your seat belts

Question: There is an article I have seen printed numerous times over the years through different venues stating what happens in the first second of a fatal crash.

I haven’t seen it for a while now, but I was always wondering if it was accurate or just made up or what. Is that something you can find for me and check it out? Either way I thank you for whatever you can do. Answer: Perfect timing, I am familiar with it and I found an old copy. There is no author stated, so I don’t know where it originated and can’t give credit. It has made its rounds on email accounts worldwide besides also being in print. While I can’t confirm exactly how accurate this depiction is (many variables would alter the outcome of a crash depending on speed, location of impact, car safety features, etc.), it does reflect the violent nature of a crash when a motorist is not buckled up. The moral of the story is: “You may choose to break the law and not buckle up, but you can’t break the laws of physics.” I am sure someone out there might know the original source. At any rate, here it is for you as I have it: Do you know what happens in the first fatal second after a car going 55 miles per hour hits a solid object? 1. In the first 10th of a second, the front bumper and grill collapse. 2. The second 10th finds the hood crumbling, rising and striking the windshield as the spinning rear wheels lift from the ground. Simultaneously, fenders begin wrapping themselves around the solid object. Although the car’s frame has been halted, the rest of the car is still going 55 mph. Instinct causes the driver to stiffen his legs against the crash and they can snap at the knee joint. 3. During the third 10th of the second, the steering wheel starts to disintegrate and the steering column aims for the driver’s chest. 4. The fourth 10th of the second finds 2 feet of the car’s front end wrecked, while the rear end still moves at 35 miles per hour. The driver’s body is still traveling at 55 mph. 5. In the fifth 10th of a second, the driver is impaled on the steering column. 6. The sixth 10th of a second, the impact has built up to the point that the driver’s feet are ripped out of tightly laced shoes. The brake pedal breaks off. The car frame buckles in the middle. The driver’s head smashes into the windshield as the rear wheels, still spinning, fall back to the earth. 7. In the seventh 10th of a second, hinges rip loose, doors fly open and the seats break free, striking the driver from behind. 8. The seat striking the driver does not bother him because he is already dead. The last three 10ths of a second mean nothing to the driver.

— Curt S. Mowers is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.