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Physics of Hit By Car
The King
rose_the_hat wrote in little_details
First post here. Little nervous.

Story takes place modern day in an American suburb.

I'm writing a story and the scene I'm working on now, a character is going to be hit--I mean mowed down by a car going 80 MPH (aiming to kill, not stopping on impact). I just want to know the physics of such an accident. Would my character be thrown over the top of the car? Or would my character be pulled under and dragged? The car doing the damage is a late 60's Chevrolet, if that makes a difference.

I'm just looking for answers in plain understandable English, not scientific jargon.

Search terms used: "hit by speeding car" "damage caused by pedestrian hit by car going 80 mph" "pedestrian hit by car physics"

Thank you for any help/insight you can offer.




I was in a car that hit someone at a slower speed (around 30 mph) and I can tell you that if it's a normal-sized car and the person is standing up, it's unlikely that they will go under the car because a person's mass is all up high.

The guy we hit came up on the hood and hit the windshield with his head and shoulder. By then the driver of the car I was in was breaking, so the guy bounced off of the car, hit the ground maybe 6 feet in front of us, rolled over once or twice and that was that.

He was badly hurt and died a few days later.

I can confirm cdozo's experience. My mother was a pedestrian hit by a car travelling at around 33 miles an hour. She was carried on the bonnet (hood) and then dumped in the road when the car stopped (which is quite a distance even at a slow speed - your 60s car might not have fantastic breaks and at that speed the stopping distance could be 400 ft or almost double that if wet - and that is if your driver applied the brakes on impact).

Don't forget the potential injury to the driver: even at 30 miles an hour, my mother's body dented the bonnet; I can't remember whether the windscreen smashed: I know the details of speed and damage from the inquest. Again, in an older vehicle, you may not have safety glass.

Like the pedestrian in cdozo's answer, my mother did not die at the scene. She had no broken bones; however, she never regained consciousness and died a week later.

One final thought: 80mph is a high speed to get up to in a suburban setting...would the driver have the sight lines to see the intended victim? Would the victim not hear the roaring engine?

He'll go over the top. Or...to the side—it depends on where the ped is hit. If hit dead on, center bumper, he's likely to flip over the top. If the ped is aware the car is coming for him and is juking, he might go over or get thrown to the side. The only way he'd get sucked under, however, is if the vehicle had a higher clearance (a large truck/suv). But, even then, it's far from guaranteed.

I'm sure that somewhere on YouTube, you can find video of the accident that killed Armando Teran at the 1973 Indianapolis Five Hundred. He was a pit crewman who was hit by a firetruck responding to an accident, which was probably going a good 60mph if not faster.