Monday, April 11, 2011

Medical Mondays: When Good Intentions Hurt


Happy Monday everyone. Today's question is from the lovely Paula at Write Now:

"Two of my teen characters are involved in a car accident that involves a lot of jostling, spinning, car crunching. They both have seat belts on and both have air bags that deploy. I'm trying to figure out what a realistic injury would be where they may need rest for five or so days at home but nothing that would stop them from walking around and functioning."

The first thing I wondered was, if a car is relatively intact after an accident, how else could the passengers be injured?

What about the safety mechanisms? Could they hurt the passengers?

(This may be obvious but it still is worth repeating: seat belts and the supplemental safety of airbags drastically reduce risk of death in car accidents. Period. This post should not scare you into not using your seat belt!)


Three-point seat belts (what we all use today) could cause injuries to the spine and abdomen. The can be as severe as requiring surgery for internal organ damage or spinal paralysis, but for the accident that Paula has in mind, we could make these mild enough they didn't require hospitalization or surgery.

Air bag injuries.
Air bags deploy at high velocity and expand via hot gases from a chemical reaction. The following are a list of possible injuries Paula could choose from to keep someone home for a few days, but without causing serious injury:

  • Hearing damage. The airbags are really loud (160-170 decibels, akin to fireworks exploding or Boeing 747 engines on takeoff).
  • Broken bones (fingers, noses, hands, arms)
  • Head trauma (concussions, contusions)
  • Eye damage
  • Skin burns from the hot gases if the air bag punctures
  • Skin abrasions
This was really fascinating to research. Every detail we're aware of (and not) in daily life is fodder for our stories.

Happy Monday everyone, and please, don't be scared to buckle up!

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

58 comments:

Liza said...

I won't even back up in my driveway without a seatbelt, and I annoy passengers in my car by refusing to drive until they buckle up. Neat info...and YES! Everybody buckle up!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A friend of mine was injured by her airbag because she sat so close to the wheel, so I know it can happen.

Áine Tierney said...

Great service. I must bare this in mind Lydia!

Vicki Rocho said...

Once again, you taught me something. I didn't realize that airbags were loud. Makes perfect sense, I just never thought about it.

Terri Tiffany said...

Well I learned more than I knew:) Some great information and will have to incorporate it in my work.

mooderino said...

Great post Lydia.
- mood
Moody Writing

Laura Pauling said...

Someone I knew was bruised really badly from the airbag deploying. Probably not what the person was looking for! Great job.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This is perfect. My two teen characters get into a car accident, but the damage is greater (one ends up in a coma). I watched a simulation of the airbags being deployed just to figure out if it would still be inflated shortly after the accident. I figured this was a better idea than getting into an accident to find out.

Which reminds me, I have another question to send you, Lydia. :D

salarsenッ said...

This is a great post. Approximately twenty years ago, my mother-in-law (who is very petite) had her face smashed by the airbag. She broke a ton of bones.

Sarah said...

I was in a very severe car accident that I walked away from, but I still hit my knee really hard and ached for days. And I had a friend who was in a car accident once who walked away, but his steering wheel and driver's seat were completely twisted--in part because of the forces he and the car were subjected to as the impact occurred. I think it's plausible that someone could just have been subjected to incredible force without having an acute injury, but that would lay them out for awhile.

Kelly said...

What a great service you offer writers, Lydia! Excellent fodder for our stories!
I'm a strict buckler upper too. Thankfully my kids yell "I'm not buckled!!!" franctically if I start backing up out of the garage if one of them isn't buckled, too (though I usually ask "Everyone buckled? before backing out).

Beth said...

This is such an interesting feature. When I was writing my first book, I called my roommate from university (now a doctor) with a very similar question.

Chris Phillips said...

Whenever my mom would give me a ride somewhere in h.s. I'd smack the cover for the airbags and watch her freak out. She was deathly afraid of them.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I don't know if cars with airbags still do this, but for bad accidents in older cars, the seatbelt has a tendency to break your collar bone. (I met more people in therapy with broken collar bones than one would imagine.)

And I STILL wear my seat belt. Having a broken collarbone hurts pretty bad, but it's better than being dead.

Magan said...

I'm a Claim's professional, so automatically every single scenario just ran through my head...lol. There are ALOT of factors that would need to go into this...type of car, was it a more than one vehicle accident, how fast were they going, what kind of impact was it (front, side, rear), age, height, and weight of the passengers can also be a huge factor...

Sorry I just went huge insurance nerd on you. Maybe we should do a joint post? lol.

Old Kitty said...

All the more reason to use seatbelts, always!
:-)

Take care
x

Munk said...

I'm not going to drive again until someone invents self-encasing foam.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Another thing: Children need to sit in the back. The front seat airbags are very dangerous to kids. (I'm soo not the cool mom!)

Matthew MacNish said...

I had no idea it was HOT gas that inflated the airbag. Interesting!

Bathwater said...

That is right seatbelts can often cause bruises after a serious crash. Not only that but because of a of the advances in vehicle safety people are surviving accidents they would have died in ten years ago.

These accidents are causing serious injuries that need long hospital stays and expensive recovery which is driving up our insurance costs.

Saumya said...

"Every detail is fodder for our stories." SO TRUE! Interesting post.

Her highness, Samantha Vérant said...

Reading this, I think of the accident model Nikki Taylor got into...almost died even though she wore her seat belt!

Lydia K said...

Magan and Sarah, thanks for your input! I love when people's experience can add to the discussion. Now I know where to come for my insurance and detailed car crash questions...
:)

Bossy Betty said...

Great stuff. I love reading these posts of yours!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia! wow you always got something new i could learn. cool post. im still gonna buckle up mostly cause now one will drive me if i dont. ha ha.
...hugs from lenny

Carol Kilgore said...

Excellent information, Lydia. Thanks.

Justine Dell said...

It's been awhile since I've swung by your blog, and I forgot how TOTALLY awesome Monday's were!!! As always--great info!

~JD

Lydia K said...

B.E. you have a good point. I also didn't mention that the old fashioned lap belts without the shoulder restraint used to cause all kinds of spinal, pelvic and abdominal injuries when people "jackknifed" during a crash.

Karen Lange said...

Love your pictures that you include with your posts. :) Thanks for the info about this. It may come in handy. Appreciate your time in researching for us.

Have a great week!

Olga said...

What an interesting post. Concrete and professional information that a writer can use.

Danyelle said...

Thanks for the information, Lydia. :) Good things to know, and it's amazing what good things can do to us--well, besides saving our lives. ;-)

Stephen Tremp said...

I heard people have been decapitated by airbags. Could be urban myth but its what I heard.

Krispy said...

I also had no idea it was hot gas that inflated the airbags and that they're THAT loud when they inflate. No wonder they tell you not to put kids in the front seat.

Tracey Neithercott said...

I love Medical Mondays. Not only do I learn a ton of great info, but I'm getting so many awesome ideas on how to kill people. Um, fictional ones, of course.

The Red Angel said...

I'm excited because I actually know some of what you are talking about! :D Thankfully I've never been in a major car accident, but I've always imagined that if I was, my seat belt would probably do a lot of damage to my body (especially my stomach) even if it did keep me strapped down.

Love your Medical Mondays, Lydia!

By the way, if you're interested, come sign up for my 100-Followers Blogfest, titled "Inanimation," it's going to be great!

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com/2011/04/100-followers-blogfest-inanimation.html

~TRA

Emily Rose said...

Really interesting!

Jennifer Hillier said...

So interesting! I have an old novel that I still pick at where the MC was injured in a car accident... I had a hard time figuring out what kind of injuries he'd sustain. Good stuff as always, Lydia!

LTM said...

wow. You are just like the greatest resource EVAH! I swear, I'm going to send you one of these one day... :D

fascinating~ <3

K.V. Briar said...

My mom was injured when her airbag went off after she swerved to miss a dear and ran into a fence. Her hands had minor burns and her throat hurt so bad she could barely talk. Intersting post as always!

Medeia Sharif said...

I heard about air bag injuries, but I didn't know they could be so severe. Interesting post.

The Words Crafter said...

Wow, I didn't know airbags were that loud!

I was in a wreck once, 35mph, and the seatbelt prevented me from smashing my face against the dash. As it was, I was bent over double and was taken to the hospital to see if I'd ruptured anything.

It was just the seat belt's impact on me. I had a lovely bruise for nearly a week!

Great information :D

Jemi Fraser said...

I would have never thought of hearing damage from the airbag! Very informative! :)

J.L. Campbell said...

Interesting stuff. I learned a few things here, especially about the gasses inside the airbags. Thanks!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Incredible detail there. An airbag damaging hearing? But you would be still alive to say, "Huh?"

As always a great post, Roland

Susan Fields said...

This was really interesting, but don't worry, I'll still buckle up! :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I had no idea about how the safety mechanisms work or what injuries they can cause. Wow, you really did a great job on this post. It's an eye-opener (hopefully with nothing poking said eye), and I promise to always wear my seat belt despite the scary stuff. ;)

lbdiamond said...

Interesting stuff! I hope I will never need an airbag to deploy. Oy.

Rachna Chhabria said...

As usual a wonderful post. Learnt something new. Will keep in mind for future use in my stories. Thanks, Lydia.

Jonene Ficklin said...

A few years ago I was rear-ended very hard, and I can vouch for the internal seat belt injuries. Still, my face stayed away from the windsheild, so it was well worth the internal bruising. Thanks for a great post, as usual!

Heather said...

During my time as a Reserve Police Officer I took an Accident Investigation Class. There isn't anything that could scare me enough or convince me not to wear a seat belt! No worries there. Interesting info that I'm filing away for later use though, thanks!

Donna Hole said...

Car accidents are so frequent, easily integrated into stories. This was great info.

........dhole

Sondrae Bennett said...

This is a great post. I'm editing a book where the MC gets a concussion from a car accident but I might throw in a few other things from here to make it more believable. Great information!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Car accidents are scary things. Interesting post as always!

alexia said...

I got half my face pretty much peeled off by the airbags in my car once (from the abrasion of the material). It looked disgusting for a good week, and I really wish I had been able to stay home! I had to go to work with bandages all over my face :(

Theresa Milstein said...

I had no idea you could get that many injuries from an airbag. But the alternative of hitting the windshield or going through it, are way worse.

My mother-in-law's airbag deployed once. She got some redness, but was otherwise fine.

I would think most people would be out for a few days because of not wearing a seatbelt or using an airbag and having a minor-moderate accident. From knowing people who have had accidents, those are the ones who are out of commissions for a few days.

Tamara Narayan said...

I would never let my child ride in the the front and now I know why! Great post.

notesfromnadir said...

This is an interesting post as it coincides w/ a novel I just finished reading. The lead character is driving & a sharp turn lands the car into the water. He's a good citizen & is wearing his seatbelt. Fortunately, he's able to unfasten the seatbelt & escape.

Not wearing a seatbelt might also get you a ticket.

M Pax said...

Whiplash hurts. I was in an accident. for days, it hurt just ot blink. My car was totalled though.

 
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