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Inside look at a car crash, literally.
January 19, 2012 5:05 AM   Subscribe

What a 130-mph car crash looks like from the inside of the car.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (53 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think I'll pass on the Cobra engine for sale, thanks anyway!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:11 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


It'll buff out.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:15 AM on January 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


I blame the white sedan.
posted by panaceanot at 5:18 AM on January 19, 2012


I blame the evil influence of the little black dot on the sun.
posted by DU at 5:22 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Always wear your seat-belts, kids!
posted by oddman at 5:31 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The part where the rear number plate comes sailing past the front mounted camera (~0:57) is pretty special.
posted by zamboni at 5:37 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


You're probably right DU.

Guy writes off a '426cid stroked Windsor with Tremec 5 speed /road race gears (Over14k in Motor & Trans)'... thanks God for still being alive.

Literally raises his middle finger to the black hole sun hitler.
posted by panaceanot at 5:39 AM on January 19, 2012


As motorcyclists say, "It went earth-sky-earth-sky-ambulance."
posted by workerant at 5:41 AM on January 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


Summit Point can be treacherous
posted by indubitable at 5:44 AM on January 19, 2012


No criticism of the post intended, but I found that surprisingly undramatic - visually speaking. The road and the sky quickly switch places a few times and then it's over.

You need to feel that moment where gravity is no longer pulling your stomach in the usual direction to have that conviction of imminent mangling death.
posted by Trurl at 5:44 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and as always for youtube, never read the comments.
posted by zamboni at 5:45 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


His boot popped open pretty easily, he might want to be careful about leaving anything valuable in there.
posted by biffa at 5:46 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is why you should pay attention to those yellow signs that say Soft Shoulder.
posted by three blind mice at 5:48 AM on January 19, 2012


Oh man, now I want to buy my own street signs. I had no idea a person could just do that! And the prices are so reasonable.
posted by DU at 5:52 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seeing as there was no rollcage (except for the bar behind his head) and no safety cage of any type, how the hell did he survive that? His harness let him bounce up above the level of the back bar several times...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:53 AM on January 19, 2012


Well, this has finally convinced, I'm going to stop driving 130 MPH.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:58 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Gravity is $DEITY's way of telling rich people with too much time on their hands to get a better hobby.
posted by The River Ivel at 6:03 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kinda hoping that Brockles pops in here, I bet he's got some stories...
posted by indubitable at 6:04 AM on January 19, 2012


Seeing as there was no rollcage (except for the bar behind his head) and no safety cage of any type, how the hell did he survive that?

Luck.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:04 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


In a more perfect world, you'd make the in-car camera a little more wide-angle. But then again, you also wouldn't be over-correcting your steering or crashing.
posted by gjc at 6:15 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope whatever broke on his car doesn't break on my car at any speed.
posted by glaucon at 6:17 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seeing as there was no rollcage (except for the bar behind his head) and no safety cage of any type, how the hell did he survive that?

That is a bare minimum roll cage, but it's still a cage. There is structure inside the bodywork and the extension to the drivers head is the only visible part of the cage. He was, however, pretty lucky that this happened when and where it did. Race tracks are designed to stop people hurting themselves when they crash but they all concentrate on likely accidents - through lack of control when cornering basically. Where cars go when they are likely to lose control is pretty easily predictable. However, with a random component failure (such as this one) the accident can happen in a weird place and it's only luck there was enough room for him to roll and come to a stop. Conversely, he may have been luck and the failure meant he was right next to a barrier when it broke and it would have been one big hit and a slide to a stop down the track.

So he was kind of lucky and kind of not. Unlucky that it failed in a way that made the car roll, but lucky that when it did there was stacks of room.

Here's a better video that shows a driver in a massive crash:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=TTzbBRyOO0o#t=101s

Note how he does the one thing you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT DO in a crash. You do not, under any circumstances, keep your hands on the wheel with your thumbs inside. Best practice is to take your hands completely off (especially if it is a wheel that isn't round) and hold onto your belts at your shoulder level. Basically, you're curling up into a ball and trusting the belts and the seat.

For more personal stories (of which I have way more than I have time to write - sorry indubitable!)

One of my drivers this last year didn't take his hand off the wheel when he backed it into a wall at 130km/hr (impact speed into the wall, he was doing 180km/hr when he spun). As the car spun back around, the wheel was wrenched out of his hand, snapping the wheel and then the wheel spun around and the broken part of the wheel whipped into his hand (between thumb and forefinger) and broke two bones and tore the ever-living shit out of his tendons. That was in October and he still can't use his hand properly (swelling and pain) despite multiple doctor/surgeon/physio appointments. We're not even sure he will be able to race this year.

If he had taken his hand off? He'd have been completely fine. I am in the middle of rebuilding the destroyed car - it hit so hard it popped the engine out of the back of it and utterly destroyed the car from basically the roll hoop back (rear engined race car). Very expensive.
posted by Brockles at 6:18 AM on January 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


But then again, you also wouldn't be over-correcting your steering or crashing.

There was no over-correction. There was a major suspension failure. At that stage he is only turning the wheel in a vain attempt to make himself feel better and/or try and slightly influence where his crash is going to happen.
posted by Brockles at 6:19 AM on January 19, 2012


Oh man, now I want to buy my own street signs. I had no idea a person could just do that! And the prices are so reasonable.

Does it come in blue?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:38 AM on January 19, 2012


So am I the only one that noticed that after the crash there was this dude wearing black and looking official with a walkie talkie who upon arriving at the crash immediately started moving around the guys head before unceremoniously removing the helmet?

That can't possibly be standard procedure after a crash like that.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:39 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I was thinking "if he'd had a spinal injury I bet that could've killed him."
posted by XMLicious at 6:44 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The jerky slow-mo on that video really makes you appreciate the awesome slow-mo in professional sports telecasts nowadays.
posted by 3FLryan at 6:45 AM on January 19, 2012


So am I the only one that noticed that after the crash there was this dude wearing black and looking official with a walkie talkie who upon arriving at the crash immediately started moving around the guys head before unceremoniously removing the helmet?

No, the driver took the hemet off, the guy just took it off him - it does look a bit like he takes it off, but he doesn't reach across in a way that would be possible nor does he put enough effort in to have done it. The official actually said "Don't move around" when he first approached the car (this was more clear on the 'longer version' posted that I initially saw). It isn't standard procedure to remove a helmet by any means until establishing condition, but anyone that can reach up and undo their own helmet and take it off is probably not suffering a spine injury...
posted by Brockles at 6:50 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Paging Darwin.
posted by timsteil at 7:01 AM on January 19, 2012


Fix the cigarette lighter.
posted by Thistledown at 7:36 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This seems like a testament to the five-point harness if anything. If that car was stock it's pretty much a given that he'd be a flesh pancake right now.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:48 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I blame the evil influence of the little black dot on the sun.
posted by DU at 8:22 AM on January 19 [1 favorite +] [!]


Why? It's the same old thing as yesterday...
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:02 AM on January 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


yes, thank god, not the safety engineers who designed the roll bar, the helmet, the seat belts, the road, the compression zones, etc etc etc etc etc etc

head desk
posted by rebent at 8:10 AM on January 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Seagrave? You couldn't wait for me? You did the Jayne Mansfield crash without me? And the dog... the dog is beautiful!
posted by shakespeherian at 8:18 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Does it come in blue?

Or gray?
posted by R. Schlock at 8:30 AM on January 19, 2012


He was really lucky the car managed to do almost a full spinout before starting to roll, this is probably what saved him. Dissipating the energy of the car with the tires on the ground is much nicer than dissipating the energy by crushing the car or launching it into a huge rollover.

The only downside to the spinout was that it meant he rolled over with the passenger side leading, which tends to be more dangerous for the driver since the roll direction is pushing in the direction of crushing him.
posted by JauntyFedora at 8:51 AM on January 19, 2012


yes, thank god, not the safety engineers who designed the roll bar, the helmet, the seat belts, the road, the compression zones, etc etc etc etc etc etc
I don't think those guys were around to be thanked at that very moment.
posted by BurntHombre at 9:00 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe thank god FOR safety engineers, helmets, ect, ect....
posted by Redhush at 9:09 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


That was scary and glad the driver is OK. With those arms flailing around like that he's lucky he still has em both. Harness looked loose too. Keeping your hands and arms inside the ride at all times is not just for the carnival!

This is exactly why i'd never drive a convertible on track. Roll cages are designed to protect you from this sort of thing.
posted by freq at 9:09 AM on January 19, 2012


This vid was circulating around various car friends/coworkers yesterday, and a lot of us had the same question: Were his belts tightened properly?

To me they looked awfully loose or it looked like the structure buckled at their attachment points, giving the harness even more slop. Other than that, the guy was just lucky as could be; when he was half out of the cockpit, there was room, and when he was slamming back onto the track, he was wadded down into the seat.

But, as Johnny Rutherford said, "I'd rather be lucky than good."
posted by Relay at 9:45 AM on January 19, 2012


Pffft. That's no worse than my daily commute every morning.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:45 AM on January 19, 2012


Ok, being as I have been thinking about crashes and stuff while I have been trying to work, here's a different perspective on these massive crashes and what you end up with as a team member.

Pro team, running 16-18 year olds in their first full race season. Single seat, open wheel cars (engine and gearbox is behind the driver like F1/Indycars are). The formative stages of a racing driver, basically. Competitive field and this is the last official test of the season before the first race. We had a two car team - one driver of which is currently in F1 as a test driver with a line to a race seat. He's driver 1 in this story. I'm the Race Engineer and there is one mechanic per car.

We are two hours into a two day test, all happy because driver 1 is under instruction to keep sandbagging as we've worked out he will be handing people their respective arses come race time. The kid is phenomenal. Genuine natural.

We put on new tyres a little earlier than normal (to avoid the mess at the end of the day where everyone tries to set a time) so that we could work on the car balance on new tyres for longer on the same conditions. Unfortunately, it turns out that Driver 1 (being 16) has been feeling the pressure a bit and not saying anything to anyone. I'm telling him I'm completely confident in his pace, and we have been deliberately not putting new tyres on at the fastest time of the day (last thing when the track is warm and the air cooling) to hide our ultimate pace. But it turns out he wanted to put one decent lap in "Just to be sure, you know?". But not tell us. We fit new tyres, I caution him on the radio to be aware of traffic as he exits the pits and to make sure the tyres are warmed before he pushes.

We stand on pit wall, his mechanic and I, and chat as we wait for him to come around. He arrives a little earlier than we expected - "Holy crap, he was on it at the last corner" - and I am reaching for my radio to warn him about his cold tyres when it comes to life just after he disappeared around turn one (a very fast, right hand, 4th gear corner):

Driver 1: "Um. I'm sorry, I have crashed the car. I am ok... (long pause)... I don't think the car is ok, though."

Me: "You sure you're ok? No neck or back pain? If everything feels ok, wait until the red flags come out and the rest of the cars slow down. Then you can get out and get behind the barrier"

Driver 1: "Ok... The car is pretty bad..."

Me (due to foreboding as him mentioning it twice is A Bad Sign): "Er... how bad?"

Driver 1: "The left front wheel nearly hit my face and I can see the gearbox in my right mirror"

Me: Shit.

When your driver crashes, you have a brief chat on the radio and then he will get out of the car. From that point, you don't know what is going on. No information. This can be anything up to 20-30 minutes and it is a very frustrating time, not knowing whether you will get back on track/get any sleep tonight getting the car back together. So we're standing by the rig waiting for the circuit recovery people to bing the car in. Eventually, Driver 1 arrives back on foot and I ask him what happened; basically he wanted to put a lap in for his own piece of mind and forgot to warm the tyres up. So he went into turn one with no heat (and hence no grip) in the tyres. Splat. Rookie mistake, and just one of those things. So we're still waiting for the car.

Now, you have four levels of crashes from a mechanic's perspective:

1: Driven: The driver restarts the car and drives it back in - minor. You can get some triage on the issue or damage from the driver bitching about what the car is doing on the radio on the way in.

2: Rolling tow: The driver is unable to restart it and is towed back in still in the car. Could be minor, could be an engine change. Not too bad. Same radio-based triage is possible.

3: Suspended tow: The car will not roll and/or is not driveable and the car is lifted by the roll hoop and brought in behind the tow truck dangling in mid air - major crash. This could mean maybe one or two corners (ie complete front left suspension assembly replaced plus the rear left plus bodywork repairs). A decent amount of work.

4: Flat tow: Basically, they scrape what's left of the car onto a flatbed truck, throw any extra bits into or next to it and they bring it back to you. This could be anything from an all day or all night repair to 'stick a fork in it' done. Back to the shop and start building a new one.

So the flatbed truck (cue groans) rolls around the corner with the car on it. Dusty, all kinds of things bent and hanging off it, but the car looks essentially complete. I start walking around it to assess how long it will be before we are back on track - I'm guessing mid afternoon at this stage (about 5 hours work). Then the rescue team use the cherry picker to lift the car off the flat bed to out it on the ground and the thing just bends in the middle. The roll hoop rises but the front and rear suspension just stays there for a bit. The front suspension is only held on by the brake lines and the wheel tethers, the nose is missing, and the rear of the car is hanging off. The whole rear suspension and gearbox has snapped off the engine and is only held on by the gear cable, wiring loom and the fibreglass floor.

Bugger. Scratch getting back on track that day, maybe we'll make a shakedown late tomorrow afternoon just for a systems check? Nope. We get the car down and the front suspension has punched into the tub and delaminated the left side of the chassis - all torsional strength and integrity of the tub (the bit you sit in that is the chassis essentially) is destroyed. The car is toast. The gearbox had not only been snapped off, but the crash had punched the differential through the casing and split the gearbox itself in half. It had a crack the whole way around the casting. I have never seen a car so comprehensively destroyed. Almost everything apart from inside the chassis (pedals etc) was damaged apart from the right hand sidepod and radiator.

So I am sat there with the team manager as we start to sigh and list the parts we will need to take back with us for the rebuild and the track goes quiet again. Mechanic for driver 2 comes in the awning:

Mechanic 2: "So is it bad?"

Me: "It's fucked. We're done for the test"

Mechanic 2: "Ah. Well, shall I not tell you that Driver 2 is the reason that the session has been stopped, then?"

Me: "HAIRY ARSEBAGS."

The second car also crashed, at a different corner, and also destroyed the tub. Four hours into a two day test and we're already done. So we spend the next day and a half rebuilding what we can in separate assemblies and collecting new parts and making a spares order before throwing everything back in the truck. We then spent the two weeks solid at the shop between then and the first race working around 18-20 hrs a day plus one all-nighter to get both cars rebuilt entirely, repainted and out to the first race. Exhausting and with a $120,000 parts bill between the two cars. This is the reason why race mechanics are on salary, not hourly paid.

Still, Driver 1 came away from the first event with two pole positions and a win and the championship lead, so that kind of thing makes it all a little easier to swallow.

When people like me look at crashes like that, the Engineer in me looks at what broke, what the driver did wrong and how much will have been damaged. The mechanic in me starts totting up rebuild time and relief that it won't be me that is blearily putting bits back together at 5 am hoping to get back on track like I used to in the 'good' old days. Both parts of me look at the mangled mess and think "how the fuck am I going to roll that back in the truck to take it home?"
posted by Brockles at 9:50 AM on January 19, 2012 [33 favorites]


Were his belts tightened properly?

If you watch the earlier footage, the belts are tight enough. He doesn't move too much between acceleration and braking forces, nor during cornering.

Belts will stretch in an accident - especially one of that magnitude. They are designed to do that and this is why they are disposable items after any big accident.

Having said that, people will often have bad belt installations that allow movement of the driver or make it impossible to belt someone in tightly enough. Watching the angles of the attachment points and how the belts lay over the body is important and shouldn't be overlooked. Also, do your belts tighter than you think you should. Usually, it feels like you can't breathe when you are first belted in, but they feel miraculously fine when you're on track.

if in doubt, do them tighter.
posted by Brockles at 9:55 AM on January 19, 2012


Brockles, can I just say, as a long-time F1 fan, thank you so much for your ongoing contributions to racing-related threads. It is so rare to get an experienced insider's view of these things in a casual setting like this. Thank you for sharing. I fear I may end up saying "no, you're wrong, Brockles says" in a discussion at some point...
posted by biscotti at 10:16 AM on January 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Maybe thank god FOR safety engineers, helmets, ect, ect....

It seems like if God liked him, he wouldn't have let the accident happen at all. Thanking God after the fact is a little like thanking your abusive spouse for not beating you again today.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:27 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's what happens in the first second of a head-on 55 mph collision...albeit one in a car without seatbelts or airbags.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:08 AM on January 19, 2012


Yes, keep on contributing Brockles. The inside view is fascinating.
posted by dgran at 11:39 AM on January 19, 2012


I think that guy drove my bus in middle school.
posted by 4ster at 11:49 AM on January 19, 2012


I see the name "Brockles" and for some damned reason I think of Brock Yates.
posted by Thistledown at 12:03 PM on January 19, 2012


Metafilter: that conviction of imminent mangling death.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:49 PM on January 19, 2012


what's it like to crash at 288mph?

Hammond.
posted by MattWPBS at 3:48 PM on January 19, 2012


the awesome slow-mo in professional sports telecasts

The awesome slow-motion in professional sports telecasts is usually the work of a high-speed camera like a Phantom Flex or something similar. Example video.
posted by gen at 9:51 PM on January 19, 2012


That is a bare minimum roll cage, but it's still a cage. There is structure inside the bodywork and the extension to the drivers head is the only visible part of the cage.

I feel pretty vulnerable in a Miata with a big roll bar, seat bolted to the floor to get me way down in the safe spot and 1/3 the power (if that). I always wonder WTF Cobra builders are thinking with one itty bitty little roll hoop like that. For one thing, it looks like his head was above the hoop (though the perspective is odd) and for another, it's a teeny little round thing that could dig into the earth just as easy as anything else. For yet another, jesus christ, there's a second seat there with NO roll protection *and* a harness to hold you in place so your head can get ripped off when it rolls? For another, is he driving without arm restraints?

Genuinely impressed that he wasn't seriously injured. Terrifying.
posted by pjaust at 6:12 PM on January 20, 2012


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