Car occupants through windscreen - possible?

I often read about car occupants being flung/catapulted through the windscreen because they didn’t wear seatbelts. I have always been sceptical of this because as far as I know windscreens are laminated and don’t shatter the way the side windows do but tend to keep their integrity when broken. If the windscreen was knocked out in the accident then the person could be flung through the resulting hole but could a person actually be flung through a previously unbroken windscreen?


Yes, it’s possible. I won’t link the pictures here but you find them rather easily if you want. There’s also the case of the elderly Florida driver who hit a pedestrian and drove some 3 miles with them stuck halfway through the windshield

IAmNotSpartacus, I remember a couple of stories about pedestrians being embedded in the windscreen and the driver driving home, parking the car in the garage and leaving the person to die, so I should have realised it’s possible. I forgot about the stories until you mentioned them. I just always thought the windscreen was too strong for somebody to go through it.

I’ve seen the (former) occupant of a car some distance away from the car they were riding it, with a quite shattered windshield on the side of a highway.
It was not a pleasant site, and I have worn my seatbelt, and insisted anyone in my car do the same ever since. Momentum is not a force to be trifled with.

[unnecessary physics nitpick]momentum != force[/unnecessary]

Conflation of scientific and regular terms allowing for an interesting pun.

“The American army is not a force to be trifled with,” is also not in reference to a physical force.

The glass is a safety glass laminated to a plastic, which is designed to keep it mostly together if it gets broken, but still, it’s not bulletproof, or skull proof for that matter. A design goal of automotive glass is to prevent it from shattering into lethal shards, which todays glasses do very well.

Don’t need plastic lamination to do that. The side windows demonstrate that simple tempering is enough to prevent large shards from forming when the glass is cracked; instead, the glass shatters into tiny cubes. If you experience a side-impact crash, you’ll get showered with those little cubes, and you may get a bunch of tiny cuts, but you won’t get a life-threatening gash.

The purpose of laminating the windshield is to prevent ballistic items from coming through the windshield and striking occupants. “ballistic items” would include debris kicked up by leading vehicles, hailstones, birds, and so on. Side and rear windows don’t get this treatment because when the car is moving forward, objects generally don’t come flying in through those windows; laminated glass in those applications would be an unnecessary expense.

Note, though, that “reinforced” does not equal “impenetrable.” Every now and then a miscreant drops a brick or a bowling ball off of a bridge, and it goes through the windshield of a car passing below, killing or gravely injuring an occupant. With that in mind, it should be possible for unrestrained occupants to pass through the windshield in the event of a front-end collision of sufficient violence.

Yes it’s possible, but not as common as it once was because of the prevalence of airbags. Most ejections that happen now come from people leaving through the side windows as the vehicle rolls.

It is possible to become lodged in the windshield from the outside. I am too squeamish to look for the ejected out through the windshield stories. I just happen to know about this one:

In college, I knew a fellow student in our department who DID get flung through a windshield. Not only that, she was driving, so she had to get up/over/around the steering wheel first, which one would think would really get in the way. And IRC, she wasn’t going particularly fast in the first place. Fortunately, almost all the damage was not permanent and confined mostly to her legs. She did get to spend a few months in a wheelchair though.

I work with a girl who was in an accident with her boyfriend where was speeding and hit a parking car. The force of the impact was so great, He went right through the windshield and she went out through the sunroof and flew 30 or 40 feet through the air. They’re both lucky to be alive and have terrible scars as reminders.

I’ve been witness to two accidents that occurred in front of me in which people went though the windscreen or a side window. In addition, my younger brother put his head through the windscreen of my parents’ car when he totaled it out at high speed some time back. The scars are not too obvious since it happened more than 25 years ago, but are still noticeable.

I’ve seen hoofed mammals go in through the windshield, so I suppose it’s possible for humans to go out that way, although I’ve never seen it personally.


Here’s a deer that fell from an overpass.

And then a horse, of course.

It’s how one of my classmates died. Slippery road, she was (as usual) wearing her seatbelt wrong, the car went off the road at a place with a bit of a cliff, she shot out and broke her neck.

The driver was her boyfriend, they were on their way to announce their engagement to their families :frowning:

A friend slashed his left biceps putting it through a tractor’s window. The cut was very clean, the doctors were able to sew him up and he lost some strength but recovered fine otherwise.

Just like David Banner.

What is “wearing your seatbelt wrong?” I knew a girl who used to move the shoulder strap under her arm so it wasn’t restraining her shoulder at all, but with the lap belt she still would have been keep it the vehicle. How wrong was your classmate wearing her belt?

A windshield when hit from the outside is forced into its frame, and it needs to be penetrated for something to get into the car. When hit from the inside it’s being pulled out of the frame, and someone can break the glass and force the entire windshield to come off without penetrating the laminate.