On Wednesdays, we wear hospital gowns.
Our Movie Mythbusters series answers the age-old question, “Okay, but could that actually happen in real life?”
It’s one of the most iconic movies of our generation, but there’s one thing about “Mean Girls” that’s always bothered me (besides Ms. Norbury’s ridiculously tacky bartending vest). I’ve always wondered if Regina George (played by Rachel McAdams) would really survive being hit by a bus with only a spinal fracture and pretty much no other visible injuries.
Like, wouldn’t the bus have killed her? And if it didn’t kill her, wouldn’t she have sustained more injuries beyond just a spinal fracture? Is it humanly possible to survive a horrific bus accident and then show up looking like a rock star at the Spring Fling just a few days later? These questions have kept me up at night for the past decade, so I finally decided to launch a full-scale investigation into what would happen to Regina IRL.
First, let’s review a few facts.
- Though the accident happened in a school zone, where speed limits usually don’t exceed 25 miles per hour, the bus definitely looked like it was traveling at a speed of at least 40 mph.
- Regina looked basically flawless when Cady (Lindsay Lohan) visited her just days after the accident. This is something I just can’t get past. I mean, even if Regina wore a bunch of makeup, we should still see some bruises or stitched-up cuts somewhere! Right?
- At the Spring Fling, Cady says that Regina “fractured her spine” and that’s the only injury ever mentioned. No broken limbs, no chipped teeth, no chunks of missing hair — nothing. Seriously, how the hell can Regina get out of bed and attend a school dance just a few short weeks after a potentially fatal traffic accident?
- Regina seems to have made a full recovery by the end of the film, which is set early the following school year. We even see her being tackled by her fellow jock girls, who seem oblivious to the fact that the girl they’re jumping on was hit by a bus and fractured her back just a few months earlier.
Next, I ask medical experts to weigh in.
I posed my question to JustAnswer.com’s community of medical experts. Chris C. — a nurse with a five-star rating — offered his opinion on what type of injuries a person would actually sustain if they were hit by a school bus.
“The movie bus speed would likely have been fatal,” he explained, “and if not, would have caused massive injuries.”
When I inquired about recovery time, Chris explained that it “would take months to heal and recover from” the bus accident.
Yup, just as I had suspected. The details of Regina’s impossibly fast recovery simply don’t add up.
I appreciated Chris C.’s knowledge, but, like any good cinematic truther, I decided to get a second opinion. I reached out to Dr. Febin Melepura of Stanford Pain & Sports Medicine in New York City and posed the same question.
His response was textbook.
“The risk of getting killed goes up the faster the vehicle is going,” he said. Someone hit by a car traveling 40 mph, for example, is 90% likely to be killed. Decrease the speed to 30 mph, and the fatality rate drops to 50%. Decrease it even more, to 20 mph, and your odds of survival surge to 10%.
But, Dr. Melepura points out, “A bus would need less speed to cause a fatality because there is more momentum with a bus, since it’s heavier.” The Type D school bus in Regina’s accident scene weighs approximately seven times that of the average car.
“This would mean it has seven times the momentum as a car going the same speed,” Dr. Melepura says. “Assuming momentum is the determining factor for fatality, then someone getting hit by a bus traveling at 30–40 mph has a 70%-99% chance of being killed.”
Yeah, so, according to the pros, Regina had about a 70% chance of dying as a result of the accident. Those certainly aren’t good odds.
And there you have it — multiple medical experts confirm Regina probably would have been killed.
Even if she survived, she would have suffered massive, ostensibly visible injuries.
Some critics reading this might say Regina’s recovery is just “movie magic,” or that I have way too much time on my hands, but let’s not forget this is “Mean Girls” we’re talking about here. It’s a brilliant movie, written by the incredibly intelligent Tina Fey, so how could this crucial detail possibly have gone unnoticed?
Regina George would not, in fact, have survived being hit by a bus with no injuries other than a fractured spine. Odds are she would have died, and either way she definitely wouldn’t have been able to show up to Spring Fling looking like a rockstar.
The real lesson here? Always look both ways before crossing the street. Regina George may have miraculously cheated death, but you and I probably wouldn’t.