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  1. #1
    beyondaurora
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    Question Force, Kinetic Energy, etc. re: Auto Accident

    So...I was in a major car accident two weeks ago of which I am still recovering. The California Highway Patrol officer is trying to piece together the accident and determine fault. I am hoping that some T types (and others) with knowledge of physics and how kinetic energy and all that good stuff works can help me to understand the situation.

    I was the passenger in a car driving eastward at approximately 35 mph through an intersection.

    The driver of the other car (traveling northerly) states that he had just begun going through his green light at about 5 mph when he collided with my car.

    My car sustained major damage (a $25,000 2010 car considered a total loss by my insurance) to my (the passenger) side doors and front wheel area. The door is bent inward, and the other car's license plate is stuck in between the hinging part of the door that connects it with the front end.

    The other driver states that his car sustained damage only to his left front bumper.

    The CHP officer states that this is all possible because of "transference", that we were driving faster than the other car and therefore when he hit us, it caused us more damage.

    This makes no sense to me. If anything, wouldn't our force be transferred to the other guy's car? Plus, how could only his front left bumper be damaged if his license plate is stuck in my car!? (The latter question is rhetorical...the guy is obviously misstating his damage).

    In my mind, I cannot see how the other driver could have possibly been driving 5 mph considering the damage to the car (and me...I sustained a concussion, sprained ankle, and severely bruised knees)! If anything, it seems that he would have been driving over the posted speed limit of 25 mph.

    What do you guys think? How does this work?
    Last edited by beyondaurora; 10-16-2009 at 02:52 AM.

  2. #2
    HAHHAHHAH! INTJ123's Avatar
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    if you got T boned in an intersection then one of you was running a red light, so it comes down to who was running the red, doesn't matter how fast either of you were going if you run a red then you are just stupid.

  3. #3
    morose bourgeoisie
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    Aurora, I'm sorry to hear about your injuries...I hope you recover quickly and fully.

  4. #4
    にゃん runvardh's Avatar
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    Yeah, who had the red light? Speed, in this case, only determines if additional charges need to be given out.
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  5. #5

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    Sorry to hear about your accident, Beyond. I hope you are recovering well.

    To answer your questions, it really depends on the details of the accident and the damage.

    What the CHP officer told you is possible if the damage to you car was much wider than it was deep. i.e. more "scrape" than crush.

    The scenario that could yield the results that the other driver and the CHP officer is as follows:
    Your car scrapes against a near stationary car as it goes by, and the slow car spins/rotates somewhat to take up the impulse of the collision.

    Also note that bumpers are made to be sturdier in an impact than side panels and doors.

    Again, it depends on the details. Did you get hurt from the car being crushed onto you, or did you get hurt because of the sudden change in direction, and banging up against the inside of the car?

    Did the license plate get fused to the side of the door like you got rammed hard, or was it more like the license plate got caught from the side and was peeled off?

    These things would be an indication of how "elastic" the collision was. The more elastic the collision the more the 5MPH scenario is plausible. Again, indicates more of a scraping than a crushing.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  6. #6
    beyondaurora
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    Thanks for the replies. My question is not that of who ran the red light -- at this point I have no way of knowing that as the driver of my car and the other driver both state that they had the green, and there are no witnesses. (I was looking down when the accident occurred.)

    I am trying to understand if and how a car that is going 5 mph can strike a car that is going 35 mph yet sustain minimal damage while the 35 mph car sustains major, irreparable damage.

  7. #7
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    I'm the opposite of a physics expert but it doesn't make any sense to me, either. I'm glad you're recovering and I hope the outcome is palatable.
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
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  8. #8

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    It's probably expensive to get this sort of help, but there are experts in this feild.

    Accident Reconstruction Network - Accident Reconstruction and Traffic Accident Investigation Resource

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  9. #9
    beyondaurora
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    Ygolo! I can always count on you. You pose some interesting questions. Especially with regard to the license plate. I will post a few pictures shortly for discussion. Thank you!

  10. #10
    Habitual Fi LineStepper JocktheMotie's Avatar
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    Yep, pictures would help. Like Ygolo said, if it was more of a "scrape" than a crush, then the car being scraped would look far worse. Basically what would happen is that 1 point [point being used here loosely] on the 5 mph car would absorb most of the impact, while the 35 mph car is impacted in a large area by that one point of contact. Similar to the Titanic hitting the iceberg.



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