Types of Motor Vehicle Collisions

May 24th, 2013 | Car Accidents

The fact that you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision can be a traumatic experience. Cases involving high impact collisions typically involve very serious injuries to the parties involved and the details of the accident are often not remembered. However, your insurance company will want to recount the details of the collision in order to determine liability (fault) and damages. There are different types of motor vehicle collisions, and knowing what type of collision you were involved in will better serve your memory and help move your claim along as swiftly as possible.

Rear Impact Collision

Rear-impact collision, often referred to as being “rear-ended”, happens when one car strikes the car in front of it from behind. The most common cause of rear-impact collision is failure to leave proper stopping distance between cars. Insurance companies will almost always place fault upon the driver of the car that rear-ends the other. For this reason, and for the safety of yourself and others on the roadway, a driver should always leave proper stopping distance between cars.

Side Impact Collision

A side-impact collision occurs where one car hits the side of another. This often happens as one vehicle is attempting to merge into another vehicle’s lane of travel or by a driver negligently running a stop signal, resulting in a “T-bone” collision. Severity of the collision varies based on the model of the vehicles involved, the speed of the vehicles, and the safety features present. Modern vehicles have safety measures in place to help reduce injuries of side-impact collisions including: side-impact airbags and crumple zones that minimize the kinetic energy that is felt by the passengers of the vehicle.

Head-on Collision

Head-on collisions occur when the front of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or a stationary object. Head-on collisions are particularly dangerous because they often happen at high rates of speed and are frequently caused when a driver falls asleep behind the wheel or is intoxicated, causing them to drift into the opposing lane of travel. Many states have taken preventative measures for minimizing the frequency of head-on collisions by implementing median barriers that act to prevent a vehicle from entering the opposing lane of travel, especially on the interstate highway system.


A rollover is when a vehicle flips over onto either its side or the roof. The main cause of rollovers is turning sharply at a high rate of speed, especially if a person is traveling in a SUV. As a vehicle rounds a curve, centripetal force, centrifugal force, and gravity combine to keep the vehicle grounded. When the centripetal force and centrifugal force are enough to overcome the force of gravity, the vehicle can flip. Another type of rollover can occur when a vehicle is sliding sideways. When the tires hit an object, such as a street curb, the increase in lateral force will cause the vehicle to roll. In an effort to prevent rollovers, many car manufacturers have reduced the steering wheel capability in taller vehicles.


Runoffs are simply where a vehicle runs off the road, often striking a stationary object such as a guard rail or median divider. If a vehicle does strike a fixed object, resultant injuries are likely. This type of accident frequently occurs because the driver is distracted, tired, or not paying proper attention. The advancements made in cellular phone technology, while allowing us to stay continually connected others, serves to also distract our attention while driving. A simple way to avoid this type of collision is to not answer phone calls or text messages while driving.