The scene of the accident. Image source: Rob Munoz with KIRO7 News
A driver speeding on West Valley Highway near 216th Street in Kent slammed head-on into another vehicle in the early morning hours of Friday, April 14th. Police estimate that the crash was caused by a 20-year-old Covington man who was driving at over 100 miles per hour when he lost control of his vehicle.
The speeding vehicle slammed into another car driven by a 42-year-old man from Tacoma. During the crash, debris was thrown up to 400 feet from the force of the impact. The crash also caused one of the cars to burst into flames.
The 42-year-old victim was pronounced dead at the scene. However, firefighters were able to regain a pulse after performing emergency resuscitation. He was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he is reportedly still in critical condition. Police believe that he was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
The speeding driver told police that he was late for work at the time of the accident. Police officers took him to Valley Medical Center for an examination. He was then arrested for investigation of vehicular assault. It is not believed that drugs or alcohol were factors in the crash.
The dangers of head-on collisions
Head-on collisions can be dangerous even at low speeds. When a heavy vehicle is travelling forward, force is being applied to it. A car that slams into another stopped car 35 miles per hour will transmit the force of its forward motion into that other car. However, when two cars are travelling at 35 miles per hour in opposite directions and they collide head-on, the force that each driver will feel is the equivalent of a 70 mile per hour accident.
In this case, one vehicle was travelling at over 100 miles per hour, while the other was travelling at normal highway speed. The force involved in the accident was thus more than 100 miles per hour.
Modern vehicles are built to absorb some of the force of an accident with crumple zones in the hood, seatbelts, airbags, and headrests designed to prevent an accident from causing a person’s head to whip around violently on their neck during a crash. However, while these safety improvements can prevent some fatal injuries at low speeds, it’s extremely difficult to protect a driver from harm caused by the extreme forces involved in a high-speed collision. That’s why our roads have strict speed limits; past a certain point, a modern car’s safety features just aren’t enough to protect a driver from the force of a high-speed collision.