A T-bone collision occurs when the front end of a motor vehicle perpendicularly crashes into the side of another motor vehicle, making a “T” shape. When this happens on the passenger side of a car or truck, it’s often referred to as a broadside collision. T-bone collisions are among the most treacherous of all traffic accidents and have a high likelihood of resulting in a fatality. Drivers and passengers who are hit in the side during a T-bone collision only have the vehicle’s door for protection from injury or death. They don’t have the front end of the vehicle, and might not have side airbags, to minimize injuries during the crash.
Below we offer an in-depth look at T-bone collisions, including where they happen, why they happen, and steps you should take if you are involved in a T-bone motor vehicle accident. Having a strong understanding of this type of collision can help you avoid causing a T-bone collision or suffering injuries as a T-bone accident victim when you drive on Florida’s roads.
Where Do T-Bone Collisions Occur?
Intersections are the most common location for T-bone accidents to occur because this is where motor vehicles cross each other’s paths most frequently. In fact, intersections are the most dangerous places for vehicles, causing many cities and towns in Florida to convert some busy intersections to roundabouts, which maintain steady traffic flow and lead to far fewer accidents.
Why Are Intersections Dangerous?
Specific things make intersections more dangerous for vehicles than other areas of the road and more prone to accidents, most of which are T-bone collisions. Examples include:
- Intersections are planned points of conflict. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is the United States agency tasked to research road safety issues and implement solutions to common traffic issues to reduce injuries and fatalities on roads and highways throughout the country. In the FHWA’s research about intersections, the agency refers to them as “planned points of conflict” present in all road systems, including residential streets, county roads, and state highways. According to the FHWA, about 20 percent of all traffic deaths and about 40 percent of all injuries occur at intersections, making them one of the agency’s main focus areas to improve road safety. Almost 50 percent of collisions at intersections are T-bone collisions, referred to as angular collisions by the FHWA, making them the most common type of accident at intersections.
- Even safe drivers make errors. Intersections are not dangerous unless drivers are on the road. When drivers are distracted, impaired, tired, or make poor choices, crowded intersections are dangerous for others who share the road, including cyclists and pedestrians. Engineers and researchers who focus on road construction and intersections give ample attention to human error. When behind the wheel, drivers must clearly receive information and process that information to react appropriately. The average person processes one piece of information at a time, and intersections hurl large amounts of information at a driver. When drivers don’t process all of the information provided or process it in a different order when they are driving through an intersection, T-bone collisions are much more likely to occur.
- Not all intersections have traffic control devices. Most intersections in rural areas do not have stop signs, traffic signals, or any other type of traffic control devices, putting drivers at risk for a dangerous and potentially fatal T-bone accident. Yet, accidents also occur at intersections with traffic control devices. They might be a result of careless or distracted drivers who ignore or miss the device, and poor road design might lead to other accidents. Engineers who design roads carefully evaluate the best traffic control features to include on a road and at specific intersections, sometimes making the wrong decision. When engineers make poor decisions or traffic has outgrown current control devices, drivers face an increased risk of T-bone collisions. Other engineering issues that can cause a T-bone accident include low time settings for yellow lights, forcing drivers to run red lights, and traffic signals with obstructed views, which make it difficult for drivers to obey the signal or react when it changes color.
- Left-hand turns occur at intersections. Making a left-hand turn requires drivers to cross traffic, making intersections dangerous, especially uncontrolled intersections. Large intersections, as well as small intersections with driveways or parking lots, can also be the site of a T-bone collision when drivers make a left-hand turn across one or more lanes of traffic. The National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) estimates that more than 53 percent of T-bone accidents involve left-hand turns.
Driver-Related Risk Factors for T-Bone Accidents
Many different factors increase the risk for T-bone collisions, including maintenance issues, environmental and road conditions, and driver actions. You cannot control environmental factors, and you should always ensure your brakes are in working order so that you don’t cause an accident when trying to stop at an intersection. You can, however, make choices when you drive and watch for behaviors in other drivers that can put you at risk for a T-bone accident. Some common driver-related risk factors for T-bone collisions include:
Florida law defines distracted driving as any visual distraction that takes your eyes off the road, any manual distraction that takes your hands off the wheel, and any cognitive distraction that takes your mind away from driving. Distracted drivers can cause many types of accidents, but it most definitely puts drivers at risk for T-bone accidents at intersections. Drivers need to react and process information at an intersection, and distractions prevent them from doing this.
For most people, cell phones come to mind when they think of distracted driving. It is true that cell phone use, especially texting while driving, is a dangerous distraction that leads to many accidents. In fact, Florida made texting and driving a primary offense in 2019, meaning law enforcement can pull over a driver for texting. Even with the dangers that come with cell phones and driving, other distractions also lead to dangerous and deadly traffic accidents. Some examples include:
- Adjusting the radio, climate controls, or other vehicle features
- Programming a GPS
- Personal grooming, such as combing hair and applying makeup
- Watching an event outside of the vehicle, such as a car accident
- Talking with passengers
- Eating and drinking
- Reaching for items on the floor or in the backseat
Driving Under the Influence of Controlled Substances
Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is illegal and can cause severe accidents, including T-bone collisions. Impaired drivers experience symptoms that make them more prone to traffic collisions and much more likely to cause a T-bone accident. These symptoms include:
- A slower reaction time to information while driving
- Difficulty with short-term memory
- Reduced ability to coordinate hands and eyes, making steering a vehicle and making turns more difficult
- Reduced concentration impacting the ability to process information while driving
- Reduced ability to accurately judge space and time, also creating struggles with reacting to traffic control devices
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) drivers who go 18 hours without sleep suffer the same impairment as those who are legally drunk at a 0.08 percent breath alcohol level. Like drunk or drugged drivers, drowsy or fatigued drivers have difficulty processing all necessary information at an intersection, making fatigue a common risk factor for T-bone collisions. Failure to get proper rest and driving at odd hours leads to the following consequences for drivers:
- Slowed brain function and reaction time for processing information
- Negative impact on vision and judgment
- Overall impairment of driving ability
- Potential of falling asleep at the wheel, which can result in a severe T-bone accident
Driving carefully and responsibly means adhering to posted speed limits and taking extra care to slow down or stop at intersections, especially when stoplights or stop signs are present. When drivers speed, they cannot control their vehicles as easily. Speeding also makes it difficult to process and appropriately react at intersections, increasing the likelihood of being involved in a T-bone crash. Speeding also increases the level of impact during an accident, leading to more severe injuries and a greater possibility of fatalities.
Not Responding to Poor Visibility
Florida’s bright sun, rain, and fog can make it difficult for drivers to see other vehicles and traffic control devices when they approach an intersection. In the worst conditions, drivers might not even be able to see the intersection. Poor visibility makes intersections more dangerous, especially when drivers must turn left across traffic. Wearing sunglasses, regularly changing wiper blades, always using turn signals, and driving defensively can help drivers avoid being involved in a T-bone collision when poor visibility exists.
When drivers operate their vehicles recklessly and have no regard for traffic laws, they put everyone else on the road at risk for accident and injury. This is especially dangerous at intersections where a reckless driver might run a stoplight or stop sign or try to go through a yellow light far too late. Drivers who ignore traffic control devices can cause severe and fatal T-bone accidents because they typically don’t slow down at intersections, which leads to more dangerous crashes.
Steps to Take After a T-Bone Collision
Taking all of the necessary steps to be a safe driver and avoiding poor choices behind the wheel that can lead to an accident can help protect you from falling victim to a T-bone crash. Yet, this doesn’t mean other drivers might still not cause a collision. If you find yourself involved in a T-bone accident on Florida roads, you should complete as many of the following items as physically possible:
- Call for help. If you’re involved in a severe crash at an intersection, it’s likely a witness will call 911 to make sure emergency vehicles and police come to the scene quickly. Regardless, you should call immediately, if able, and give law enforcement officials as much information for their report as possible without including anything potentially incriminating. If you are lucky enough to walk away from your car, gather contact information, insurance policy information, and vehicle information from other drivers and witnesses at the scene while you are waiting for law enforcement to arrive.
- Go to the hospital. If you aren’t transported by ambulance, head to the nearest emergency room to let a doctor examine you for common car accident injuries. Internal injuries and head traumas, as well as some others, don’t always show immediate symptoms. Your health is a top priority, and you need the medical documentation for proof to insurance companies and the court if you file a lawsuit.
- Take pictures. Use your smartphone to take photos of the scene of the accident. You might need them later for your insurance company or the court to determine liability. You can also take photos of license plates and any visible physical injuries. Continue to take photos of your injuries through the healing process to provide additional documentation for your accident claim.
- File a claim under your mandatory Florida PIP policy. Even if you didn’t cause the T-bone accident, you need to file a claim under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy because Florida is a no-fault insurance state. Your policy will cover up to 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages up to your policy limit, which is a minimum of $10,000.
- Contact a qualified personal injury attorney. T-bone collisions are usually severe accidents that will quickly meet or exceed your PIP policy limits. Recovering additional losses as well as receiving compensation for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, require you to take legal action against the at-fault driver. A competent auto accident lawyer can uncover the circumstances of the T-bone accident and build a case against the defense to maximize your odds of getting the compensation you deserve.
- Don’t discuss your case. Once you file a claim against the other driver, you should assume that the insurance company will investigate you and the accident. Keep all details of your case off of social media and only discuss them with your attorney to avoid providing information to an insurance adjuster who will try to devalue your claim.
If you were injured in an accident and have questions about how to recover compensation, call a motor vehicle accident lawyer for more information.