How Much Damage Can Occur In a Crash at 30 MPH?

Philadelphia Pennsylvania Lawyer

When two objects collide, the amount of damage that occurs depends on a variety of factors, including the type of objects involved, as well as the speed of each object. While some may think a car accident involving a vehicle traveling at 30 mph may not cause significant damage, this is not always the case, especially when one of the objects is a person.

Pedestrian Injuries in 30 MPH Collisions

When a car or truck strikes a person on foot, the consequences to the pedestrian can be lethal. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimated that about 40 percent of people who get hit by a motor vehicle going 30 mph will die from their injuries. 

For comparison:

  • About 5 percent would not survive getting struck by a motor vehicle traveling at 20 mph
  • About 80 percent would die from a 40-mph impact, and
  • Almost 100 percent would receive fatal injuries from getting hit by a vehicle moving at over 50 mph at the time of impact.

Age is another factor in the severity of physical damage that happens in pedestrian accidents. A walker who is 65 years or older is more than five times more likely to die from getting struck by a motor vehicle than someone who is 14 years or younger.

Damage in Single-Car Accidents

Single-car accidents often happen because the driver falls asleep at the wheel, is impaired by alcohol or other drugs, or has a medical emergency. The property damage and bodily injuries will depend on what, if anything, the car struck. 

For example, there is likely to be more damage to the car and other property if a car crashes into a large tree or a building as opposed to a cornfield.

Multi-Car Collisions

In a multi-vehicle collision, there is the possibility of a vehicle getting hit by more than one car or getting deflected off of the roadway and striking an object. Let’s say that there is a five-car pile-up on the highway. After a car hits a vehicle in front of it, another car might strike it from behind.

In this situation, the vehicle can sustain more damage than in a simple fender-bender. Also, with multiple impacts, the people inside the cars can suffer more severe personal injuries.

The Relative Speeds of the Vehicles

It is unlikely that all the cars and trucks involved in a collision will travel at precisely the same speed, for example, that all three cars in an accident were moving at exactly 30 mph at the time of the crash. The speed of your car and the speed at which the other vehicles were traveling will create the energy from the crash, which will determine how much damage occurs.

Wearing a Seatbelt Makes a Difference in the Severity of Injuries

Some people incorrectly assume that one does not need to wear a seatbelt when driving slowly. The truth is that seatbelt use prevents or reduces the severity of injuries at all speeds and in all types of crashes.

If you are not wearing a seatbelt when the front end of your car hits something like another vehicle or a tree at 30 mph, your body will continue moving forward at 30 mph until your body hits something hard enough to stop your forward progress. The impact is roughly equivalent to falling from a three-story building.

Differences in Damage Between Urban and Rural Accidents at 30 MPH

The level of damage can depend on whether the collisions took place in a city or in the countryside. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released findings from their National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) that compare the fatality rates in urban and rural motor vehicle accidents. 

About 25 percent of traffic fatalities in rural areas happened in zones with a speed limit of 30 mph or lower, as opposed to about 75 percent of fatal accidents that occur in urban areas. One explanation for this data is the fact that rural roads tend to have higher speed limits than urban streets.

Tractor-Trailer Crashes at Moderate Speeds

When a heavy vehicle collides with a lighter-weight car, the people in the lighter vehicle tend to sustain significantly more severe physical injuries. Also, the car will likely crumple up more than the heavier vehicle. Tractor-trailers are much heavier than passenger cars. 

When the truck carries cargo, the weight disparity between tractor-trailers and cars increases. The relative weight of the two or more vehicles involved in an accident will affect the amount of property and physical damage that results. This is why truck accidents can be so devastating.

Rear-End, Head-On, and Side-Impact Collisions

The type of crash can be a factor in how much damage happens. In a head-on collision or t-bone accident, there is a high rate of severe and fatal injuries, as well as vehicles getting declared a total loss. Rear-end collisions tend to be less deadly than head-on or side-impact accidents.

As you can see, when a person is involved in an accident, even one that occurs at a relatively low speed, their injuries can be significant.