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Assessing the Windshield ‘Spider Web’

Approach to Honda Odyssey minivan shows frontal collision damage.

Approach to Honda Odyssey minivan shows frontal collision damage.

You respond to a collision scene and find that a Honda got hit in a glancing, head-on collision along the passenger’s front fender. Upon arrival, the initial size-up leads responders to believe that the damage is not significant. The passenger’s front fender is crumpled and the hood has buckled a bit. Everything else on the car looks pretty much intact.

Driver’s side windshield spider web cannot be caused by frontal airbag deployment.

Driver’s side windshield spider web cannot be caused by frontal airbag deployment.

A closer look at the windshield on the far side however reveals an outward ‘bump’ in the glass on the driver’s side near the top of the windshield. This potentially changes things very significantly. Once patient contact is made with the driver, it may become evident that the seemingly minor crash can actually be a serious trauma event.

The injuries to the driver in this case were solely due to the fact that the driver was unbelted. His frontal airbag deployed as it should have but it was the collision momentum that propelled him forward, up and over the deployed airbag. That’s when his head impacted with the windshield up along the top edge, resulting in a serious facial and head injury.

Remember, a ‘spider web’ on the windshield on the passenger’s side can be caused by three things; 1) unrestrained occupant contact, 2) airbag deployment, or 3) a flying object inside the vehicle. A ‘spider web’ on the driver’s side of the windshield is different. It can only be caused by two things; 1) occupant contact as in this case, or 2) an unidentified flying object inside the vehicle striking the glass hard enough to crack it.

From the inside, it might even be possible to see strands of hair or even flesh or blood on the glass where the patient impacted it. Match what you see there with what you see on the patient’s face to confirm to the best of your ability what has happened.

Inside view of glass may reveal strands of hair, flesh, or blood, confirming patient impact with the glass.

Inside view of glass may reveal strands of hair, flesh, or blood, confirming patient impact with the glass.

About Ron Moore

Ron Moore
Ron Moore retired as a Division Chief with the McKinney (TX) Fire Department. He is now employed part-time with the Prosper, TX Fire Rescue and the Plano Fire Rescue. Ron is the author of now over 200 published articles in his renowned University of Extrication series, featured each month in Firehouse Magazine and is the moderator of the University of Extrication interactive section of the Firehouse.com website.