Vehicle Windshields & "Spider Webs"

SUBJECT: Vehicle Windshields TOPIC: Windshield Crash Damage and "Spider Webs" OBJECTIVE: Responders will be able to assess the condition of the vehicle windshield and determine if the pattern of laminated glass breakage indicates a...


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SUBJECT: Vehicle Windshields

TOPIC: Windshield Crash Damage and "Spider Webs"

OBJECTIVE: Responders will be able to assess the condition of the vehicle windshield and determine if the pattern of laminated glass breakage indicates a patient mechanism of injury.

TASK: Given a crash-damaged vehicle, responders shall determine if there is damage to the windshield, if the damage can be described as a windshield “spider webâ€, and if the damage was caused by collision damage, frontal airbag deployment, contact by an unrestrained vehicle occupant, or impact with loose objects.

It is important that responders realize valuable information can be gained from the windshield of a vehicle involved in a collision. The glass can indicate a lot about what happened to your patients during the few seconds of the crash. Once it is cut out by extrication crews, the information it is trying to tell you can easily be lost.

In a minor collision, for example, there may be no damage to the laminated glass at all; no cracks or slivers visible in the glass. That in and of itself is a piece of information responders should take into consideration during incident size-up and patient assessment. It may indicate that once you get close to the vehicle and make patient contact, you may find that there are no injuries and most likely, the occupants will sign release forms refusing treatment.

On the other hand, if you approach a crash-damaged vehicle and observe significant windshield damage, you are arriving at a more significant incident. There is a greater probability of patient injury, with the potential for entrapment a reality as well.

"Reading the Wreck"

There is one certain type of windshield damage that is best described as a “spider web.†Similar to a real spider’s web, this damage has a central point that all the breakage seems to focus around. A windshield spider web can be in a circular pattern or a long horizontal arrangement. By studying the following real-world images, you will learn exactly what windshield spider webs are able to tell us at crash scenes and become more proficient at “reading the wreck.â€

TASK: Given a crash-damaged vehicle, responders shall determine if there is damage to the windshield, if the damage can be described as a windshield “spider web,†and if the damage was caused by collision damage, frontal airbag deployment, contact by an unrestrained vehicle occupant, or impact with loose objects.


Ron Moore, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com “MembersZone†and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at Rmoore@firehouse.com.