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Analysis of rear-end accident factors and injury patterns

In: American Association for Automotive Medicine. 18th Conference. Proceedings. AAAM, 1974, p. 174-199

Authors: F. Huelke, Joseph C. Marsh

Using a variety of motor vehicle data sources in computer storage at the Highway Research Institute, the etiological and medical aspects of rear-end collisions were studied. The data sources indicate that one-fourth of all motor vehicle collisions are of the rear-end type yet account for only 1-4% of the fatalities. "Rear-enders" occur five times more often in urban than in rural areas and are five times more frequent than head-on collisions. All collisions occur 2.5 times as often in urban areas; yet, rear-end fatalities occur more often in rural areas. In the CPIR file, cars are rear-ended more often by vehicles of larger size than by comparable size or smaller vehicles. Males are more often drivers of the striking car with females being overly represented in the rear-ended vehicle. Drivers of the striking car are more likely to be under 30 years of age and older drivers have a greater chance of being struck in a rear-end collision. In most rear-end crashes (90%) the occupants of both cars are not injured. Injuries were found more often in the striking car than in the struck vehicle. Although the fuel leakage occurs in rear-end collisions, the greatest number of fires occur in severe frontal crashes. Neck injury is three to five times more frequent than in any other body region; yet, only 4% of neck injuries were at or above the moderate injury level. Neck injury is more frequent (by 10%) in females than in males. The frequency of neck injury was higher when seat adjuster damage occurred, probably due to higher accident severity. Neck injury frequency does not increase with increased rear-end crush. Neck injuries, without fracture dislocation or spinal cord involvement, i.e., those at the minor or moderate injury levels, are difficult to access because of the lack of readily available, quantifiable diagnostic techniques.