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Reconstruction of a car hitting a tree at 55 MPH

One tenth of a second:

The front bumper and grill collapse. Slivers of steel penetrate the tree to a depth of several centimetres

Two tenths of a second:

The bonnet crumples as it rises, smashing the windscreen. The rear wheels leave the road. The radiator disintegrates. The front wings come into contact with the tree forcing the rear of the wings to splay outwards over the front of the wings. The heavy structural members of the car begin to act as a brake on the terrific forward momentum of the car’s body, but the driver’s body continues to move forward at the car’s original speed. This means a force of 20 times gravity – his body weighs 1500kg. His legs, ramrod straight, snap at the knee joints.

Three tenths of a second:

The driver’s body is now off the seat. Torso upright, broken knees pressing against the dashboard. The plastic and steel frame of the steering wheel begins to bend under the pressure of the driver’s grip. His head is near the sun visor, his chest above the steering column.

Four tenths of a second:

The first 50 centimetres of the car has been demolished, but the rear is still travelling at approximately 35 mph. The engine block crunches into the tree. The rear of the car, like a bucking horse, rises high enough to scrape bark off the low branches.

Five tenths of a second:

The driver’s fear-frozen hands bend the steering wheel into an almost vertical position. The force of gravity impales him on the steering column. Jagged steel drives through his chest, puncturing lungs and internal organs.

Six tenths of a second:

So great is the force of the impact that the lace-up shoes are ripped off the driver’s feet. The brake pedal shears off at the bulkhead. The chassis bends in the middle, sheering the body bolts. The driver’s head smashes through the windscreen. The rear of the car continues its downward fall, crashing down on the rear wheels.

Seven tenths of a second:

The entire disintegrating body of the car is forced out of shape. Hinges tear away. Doors fly open. In one last convulsion the seat rams forward, pinning the driver more firmly on the steering column. Blood spurts from his mouth. Shock has frozen his heart. The driver is dead in just seven tenths of a second.

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