The vast majority of vehicle occupants in Illinois and around the country fasten their seat belts before every trip, but few of them pay much attention to the objects they carry with them. It is not unusual to see the rear seats of cars loaded with bags and packages and the front seats being used as places to keep cellphones, music players and laptop computers, but this can be very dangerous in a crash. This is because items inside motor vehicles remain in motion during heavy braking or collisions, and they can strike vehicle occupants with significant force.
A study conducted in 2012 by the road safety organization Safety Research and Strategies put the number of annual injuries caused by flying objects in motor vehicles at about 13,000, and this figure does not account for vehicle occupants who are injured when accidents are caused by loose objects that became lodged beneath brake pedals. An object weighing 20 pounds traveling at 55 mph delivers a blow with a force of half a ton, and even a bottle of water or can of soda weighing just 16 ounces becomes a potentially deadly 21-pound projectile at this speed. For comparison, bowling balls weigh between 6 and 16 pounds.
Unrestrained passengers can be even more dangerous in car accidents because people weigh a lot more than groceries or beverages. Researchers have discovered that the chances of being killed in a crash increase by 25% when somebody inside the vehicle is not wearing a seat belt. Drivers can reduce these risks substantially or eliminate them altogether by ensuring that they and all of their passengers buckle up, removing loose items from the dashboard and placing bags or packages in the trunk rather than on the rear seat.
Failing to properly stow items that could be dangerous in an accident is a form of negligent behavior, and vehicle occupants who are struck by flying objects may be able to pursue civil remedies. When advocating on behalf of accident victims, experienced personal injury attorneys could seek damages to cover their health care expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.