Forces and Accelerations in Car Accidents and Resultant Brain Injuries
Classical physics principles can be employed to establish what actual physical forces are acting on the brains of vehicle occupants in many motor accidents. Such an application of classical mechanics has recently been described at length (Varney & Varney, 1995). In that report some 15 car accidents were selected for analysis because neuropsychological information on the injuries to the occupants and extensive details of the mechanics of the car accidents were simultaneously available. The estimated forces exerted on the brains of accident victims in this series of 15 case studies ranged from 30 to 1,500 times the weights of the elements involved (i.e., accelerations from 30 to 1,500 g). The physical analysis involved in these determinations is the subject of this chapter. Details concerning the personal injuries involved are given briefly, only enough to enable the reader to note the correlation between the brain injury and the acceleration. Biomechanical aspects of brain injury (i.e., how the forces of motor vehicle accidents effect brain tissue and brain structures) are the subject of chapter 4.