Head-on Collisions: What You Should Know

Head-on collisions are terrifying types of car accidents. No one expects a driver will cross their lane and continue into oncoming traffic. This dangerous situation often forces victims to make difficult, split-second decisions.

Today, we’ll explain more about how head-on crashes happen in the first place and what steps you could take to avoid one.

How do head-on crashes happen? 

A head-on collision occurs when a car has a lane departure and strikes another car traveling in the opposite direction. Of course, that’s the simple definition. But what events would lead to this happening?

There are several possible explanations. See our table below for details.

Risk FactorHow it Relates to Head-on Collisions
Driving under the influenceDrugs (including prescription) and alcohol can impair a driver's judgment. Even worse, these substances can slow reaction times, making it more difficult for the driver to correct their steering.
Driver distractionAnything takes a driver's attention off the road can be a distraction. Cell phones are common culprits, but food, a radio, or even a passenger can be distracting.
DrowsinessWhen a driver nods off even for a second or two at a time, she is just as dangerous as a drunk driver.
Excessive speedExcessive speed can cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle. Speeding drivers also have less time to react to other drivers, pedestrians, or obstacles.
Illegal or unsafe lane passingA dangerous situation can arise if an impatient driver tries to overtake a slower vehicle in an illegal passing zone or thinking they can beat out an oncoming car. Worse, high speeds are often involved, increasing the likelihood for serious injury.
Poor weather or visibilitySlick roads, heavy fog, and similar conditions can pose hazards to drivers.
Driver errorFor example, a driver not paying attention could accidentally turn the wrong way down a one-way street.

Of course, it’s possible that more than one item from this list could contribute to a head-on collision. Interestingly, a higher percentage of head-on collisions happen on rural roads versus urban ones.

Why are head-on collisions so dangerous? 

A head-on collision is a dangerous event because you often have two cars traveling at a high rate of speed that ends with a sudden impact. The impact is transferred from the vehicles to the drivers, often with catastrophic results.

Of course, the cause behind the collision can play a role here, too. Imagine a driver has mistakenly turned the wrong way down a one-way street. She may have time to slow or veer her vehicle slightly before impact. Compare this to a drunk driver speeding down the wrong side of the road without using headlights. This situation provides the oncoming vehicle little or no time to adjust or react.

What are some common injuries from head-on collisions? 

Victims of head-on crashes can sustain serious, and even life-threatening injuries. Some of the potential injuries include:

  • Broken bones
  • Chest injuries, including broken ribs and punctured lungs
  • Internal bleeding and organ damage
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Burns
  • PTSD, anxiety, and other mental impacts

These types of injuries can have severe consequences for victims such as costly medical bills, disability, disfigurement, and changes in lifestyle. If you have been the victim of a head-on crash, you should consider reaching out to a car accident attorney for help in pursuing compensation.

How can you avoid a head-on collision? 

Suppose you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of another driver careening out of their lane and into yours. What maneuvers might you make to avoid a head-on collision?

  • Slow your speed. Ease up on gas, apply your breaks.
  • Make your presence known. Flash your headlights and honk your horn.
  • Steer slightly to the right of the car. Avoid steering left. In the event the driver realizes their mistake, this is the direction they will correct to.
  • Look for a clear space to move into. Depending on the circumstances, your options may be limited, and you may have only seconds to react. If possible, move into a clear lane. Even off-road or into a ditch may be better than being struck head-on by a car.

No matter what, you should brace for impact. This is another reason why you should always wear your seatbelt. Even if you are a safe driver, you can’t count on other drivers’ behavior.

Should you talk with an attorney after a head-on collision? 

We encourage you to speak to a head-on collision attorney when you’ve been the victim of this horrific crash. Our attorneys are available to speak to you at no charge. If legal action is needed, our team can fight for a fair settlement on your behalf.

By the way, we’ve written about several other types of crashes, too. See our posts on side-impact collisions, drunk-driving involved crashes, and what to do if you’ve been rear-ended.

    Get a Free Case Evaluation