How to Respond to Head-On Collision Car Accidents


Cassandra Nguy

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), head-on collisions make up about 14% of all U.S. traffic fatalities each year. Between 2016 and 2018 there were approximately 5,248 rear-wheel drive head-on collisions. Still, getting into a head-on collision is relatively rare. These crashes account for to 2% of all collisions and 18% of fatal accidents.

If you’ve ever experienced other accidents like:

Make sure to contact an auto accident attorney to legally cover yourself for any unjust losses. Head-on collisions are serious and any injuries should be legally assessed as soon as possible.

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What is a Head-On Collision?

A head-on collision is when both vehicles collide face-to-face when driving from opposite directions. An example is when a distracted driver accidentally drives across the opposite side of the lane, then collides with another oncoming vehicle. Head-on collisions also involve crashes into other objects, like poles, walls, trees, etc.

How to Avoid a Head-On Collision

The National Safety Council advises drivers to follow the four R’s when it comes to avoiding head-on collisions:

  • Read the road ahead ― Pay attention to all vehicles around you and draw other drivers’ attention by flashing your headlights or putting on your blinkers when merging.
  • Drive to the right ― The safest place in the road for your vehicle is slightly to the right of your center lane. Being closer to the shoulder will allow for an escape path in case of danger.
  • Reduce your speed ― Slow down if you see any hazardous object on the road. Reducing speed lowers the energy of the car and gives you more control.
  • Ride off the road ― If you see an approaching vehicle that crashed, don’t jerk your steering wheel or slam on the brakes. It’s best to drive off the road, onto the shoulder of the road, or into a ditch to avoid a head-on collision.

Tips to avoid getting into a head-on collision:

  • Do not straddle or hug the road’s center line. This will lessen the chances of a head-on collision.
  • If you see a vehicle traveling the opposite direction in your same driving lane, slow down (but don’t slam the brakes). Move your vehicle to the shoulder or another more spacious area, if possible. Put on your emergency lights to alert any drivers behind you. Drive off the road if you are unable to avoid the collision any other way safely.

What is a Major Cause of Fatal Head-On Crashes?

According to Injury Facts by the National Safety Council, head-on collision accidents caused around 5,900 deaths and 149,000 injuries in 2021. The reason why deaths have significantly increased since 2020 typically fall under these three factors:

  • Drunk driving: Alcohol-impaired fatal crashes increased 14% in 2020.
  • Driving over the speed limit: Speeding accidents increased 17% in 2020.
  • Unrestrained vehicle occupants: Deaths from failing to wear safety restraints as legally directed (i.e., seat belts, booster seats for infants and children) rose 14% in 2020.

Other head-on collision accident causes are as follows:

  • Distracted drivers using their phones, engaging in conversations, eating, or drinking behind the wheel.
  • Failing to see or read road signs and entering the wrong direction.
  • Drowsy drivers who cannot stay awake and pay full attention to the road.
  • Driving in dangerous weather conditions or without properly equipped tires.

Who is At Fault for a Head-On Collision?

The at-fault driver in a head-on collision is the one traveling in the wrong direction. For instance, an alcohol-impaired driver starts crossing to the other side (left side) of the road until he or she faces oncoming traffic head-on in the wrong lane.

Another example is when the driver doesn’t see “do not enter” signs and enters the freeway while directly facing oncoming traffic. However, sometimes the driver who slams into another car’s bumper is found at fault for the accident. This can push the rear-ended car into oncoming traffic on the opposite side of the road, causing a head-on collision.

If you find yourself or someone you know in a similar situation, contacting an attorney is the best approach. LegalASAP can connect you with an auto accident attorney who can help answer any concerns or questions you may have.

What to Do if a Head-On Collision is Unavoidable

Sometimes the situation is unavoidable, although facing a head-on collision is the last thing you’d want to experience. Therefore, if you see that it’s unavoidable, slow down your vehicle and look around to see what other objects you can strike instead. Some examples might include a tree, safety barrier, a pole, etc. Crashing into these objects may potentially prevent further harm than a head-on collision injuring other people.

However, if the situation doesn’t allow you to avoid the car by hitting other objects, you can try turning your steering wheel to avoid a head-on collision. Turning the wheel and applying the brakes can reposition the angle on impact or help you avoid the crash altogether.

Common Injuries After a Head-On Collision

Head-on collisions are some of the most dangerous crashes that can occur while driving.  In fact, you’re highly likely to sustain any of the following injury types during a head-on collision:

  • Head or brain injuries. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause severe damage ranging from concussions to extensive lacerations on the outer layer of your brain’s surface.
  • Facial injuries. These can include a broken nose, teeth, mouth lacerations, etc.
  • Broken limbs, especially your neck, arms, and shoulders.
  • Ribcage and chest injuries.
  • Internal bleeding and nerve damage.
  • Burns and lacerations.
  • Back and spinal injuries that damage the nerves and paralyzes a part of the body (i.e., monoplegia, hemiplegia, paraplegia, and tetraplegia).

At What Speed is a Head-On Collision Fatal?

A head-on collision can cause fatal injuries when driving between 50 and 70 miles per hour. At these speeds, the likelihood of paralysis, TBI, and other serious bodily injuries is extremely high. Driving over 70mph and getting into a head-on collision will nearly guarantee death for one or both drivers. There is little time to react and gain control when driving at such high speeds.

Damages You Can Collect After a Head-On Car Accident

Head-on collision injuries can be both exhausting and painful. This is why it’s important to know what damages are potentially available for you to collect. These damages include:

These are some of the damages that victims may receive after a head-on collision. To sue for these damages, the victim must prove that the other party was negligent if the accident happens in an at-fault state.

What is the Average Settlement for a Head-On Collision?

An average head-on collision settlement varies based on  the injury’s severity. Moderate settlements range between $25,000 and $100,000.

However, permanent or long-term medical treatment can potentially net each victim up to $1 million in financial compensation.

The amount of injuries and damages sustained on the victim will determine how much he or she will be compensated. Both parties insurance will take a look at the following factors:

  • The severity and permanence of the victim’s injuries
  • Whether the collision has disfigured or disabled the victim in any way
  • Types of injuries each victim suffered
  • Whether the injuries will prevent the victim from doing what they enjoy
  • Whether the victim can comfortably get back to work

Head-on collision settlements also depend on which state the accident occurs in and how the police determine who’s at-fault. That’s why, finding an attorney to help you understand the laws in your state is your best course of action.

Find an Auto Accident Attorney For Your Head-On Collision

If you were involved in a head-on collision or any auto accident, contact LegalASAP. We will connect you with an attorney who specializes in auto accident claims in your state. LegalASAP is connected with over 500+ firms with thousands of experienced lawyers located throughout the United States.

Sign up for a free consultation today and find out out much your claim may be worth from a local car accident lawyer before you settle with insurance.

Cassandra Nguy

Cassandra Tran Nguy is a legal writer living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Marketing. Visit her online profile at