Young adults in motor vehicle collisions in Norway: user safety errors observed in majority of cases with severe or fatal injuries

Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2022 Dec;18(4):456-469. doi: 10.1007/s12024-022-00541-x. Epub 2022 Oct 17.


Purpose: We performed a multidisciplinary investigation of young adults involved in motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) to elucidate injury mechanisms and the role of passive safety equipment such as seat belts and airbags.

Methods: MVCs resulting in death or serious injuries to the driver or passengers aged 16-24 years in southeastern Norway during 2013-2016 were investigated upon informed consent. We assessed the crash scene, the motor vehicle (MV) interior and exterior, and analyzed data from medical records, forensic autopsies and reports from police and civil road authorities.

Results: This study included 229 young adult occupants involved in 212 MVCs. The Maximum Abbreviated Injury Scale (MAIS) score was ≥2 in 111 occupants, of which 22 were fatalities. In 59% (65/111) of the cases with MAIS score ≥2 injuries, safety errors and occupant protection inadequacies were considered to have contributed to the injury outcome. Common errors were seatbelt non-use and misuse, carrying insecure luggage, and the seat back being too reclined. MAIS score ≥2 head/neck injuries were observed in side impacts despite correct seatbelt use, related to older MVs lacking side airbag curtains. The independent risk factors for MAIS score ≥2 injuries included not using a seatbelt, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, nighttime driving, side impacts, heavy collision partner, and MV deformation.

Conclusion: User safety errors (not using a seatbelt, seatbelt misuse, excessive seat-back reclining, and insecure cargo) and a lack of occupant protection in older MVs resulted in young adults sustaining severe or fatal injuries in MVCs.

Keywords: Collision investigation; Injury mechanism; Motor vehicle collision; Safety errors; Young adults.

MeSH terms

  • Abbreviated Injury Scale
  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Seat Belts
  • Wounds and Injuries*
  • Young Adult