Head on Collision

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, a head on collision occurs when the front end of one vehicle collides with the front end of another vehicle. The two vehicles must also be traveling in opposite directions for the accident to be considered a head on collision. Head on collisions often result in fatalities and severe injuries. Head on collision between two tractor trailers or large trucks can be even more dangerous, as the vehicles may cause damage to other vehicles or spill potentially hazardous materials onto roadways.

Head on Collision Causes

Head on collisions most commonly occur when a driver crosses over into the lane of oncoming traffic. There are a few reasons why a driver might do this. If there is something in the road, the driver may instinctually swerve to avoid the object or animal. A driver may also be distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle, and inadvertently cross over the center lane.

A driver that is going the wrong way in a lane is likely to cause a head on collision. When this occurs, there are often drugs or alcohol involved. The reasons that a driver may be going the wrong way on the road include driving onto an off-ramp or turning onto a one-way road.

Decreased visibility may also cause a head on collision. Reflections or glare may cause a driver to swerve into another lane. Snow, hail, or hard rain may also decrease visibility so that the driver cannot see road signs or lane markers. Drivers are asked to reduce speed or pull over until visibility increases in this situation. Drivers that are falling asleep or speeding have a much higher likelihood of causing a head on collision. Vehicle malfunction may cause a head on collision, but it is more commonly driver error.

Preventing Head on Collision

There are many preventative measures in place to keep head on collision from happening. “Do not enter” signs are usually placed at the mouths of off-ramps and one way roads, and the entrance to off-ramps is often facing in a direction that would make entry difficult. Abutments or cones can make lane divisions more visible and help prevent head on collisions resulting from lane crossover, especially during inclement weather conditions.

Decreasing Injury from Head on Collisions

Vehicle manufacturers have tried to make vehicles safer, so that head on collisions will cause fewer fatalities and less severe injuries. Air bags, seat belts, and safety cages are all geared towards saving lives during a head on collision. Vehicle manufacturers are continually testing new features to improve driver and passenger safety during head on collisions.


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“Head on Collisions Executive Summary.” Implementing the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and TRB, n.d. Web. 9 Oct 2013. <http://safety.transportation.org/htmlguides/HOcrashes/exec_sum.htm>.

“Manual on Classification of Motor Vehicle Traffic Accidents.” NHTSA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . USA.gov, n.d. Web. 9 Oct 2013. <http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Help/Terms.aspx>.