Patterns of High-speed Impact Injuries in Motor Vehicle Occupants

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Trauma from high-speed motor vehicle accidents is a leading cause of death and disability. Most of these injuries could be prevented if the driver and occupants of motor vehicles wore seat belts or used other restraining devices. The injuries produced when an unrestrained occupant of a motor vehicle is ejected from that vehicle or impacts on a hostile surface at high speed occur in a reproducible pattern. The types of injuries sustained by drivers and front seat passengers are different and specific enough to allow one to identify drivers and passengers with confidence. Because of severe life-threatening injuries to the central nervous system, and thoracic and abdominal viscera, other serious injuries may be overlooked. Knowledge of the mechanism of injury and the role of the victim (i.e., driver or passenger) should lead to the prompt radiographic evaluation of all areas at risk. Our findings are based on a study of 250 drivers and 250 front seat passengers involved in motor vehicle accidents. We found distinct common injury patterns and radiographic findings in drivers and front seat passengers.

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