Matt Terreri DC, CCSP
Plenty of us have been there, and more of us will go there. Sitting there in your vehicle minding your own business until WHAM! you get hit from behind or perhaps from the front, or maybe even worse.
This article will hopefully give you a little insight and advice if you are ever involved in a motor vehicle collision.
FIRST THINGS FIRST – Protect Yourself
There are some things you can do to help protect yourself before you are involved in a collision. Here is a short list.
Check with your insurance company to find out what your coverage is.
Many people’s policies are defaulted to the minimum coverage, and with just a little more money per month one can greatly increase coverage which further insures you should anything happen.
Raise that “headrest”!
I put headrest in parenthesis because that’s what most people call it. In fact, it’s not actually a headrest, but a head restraint. Its purpose is not for you to relax your head against, but rather to keep your head from snapping backward in a collision. In order for this to work, the top of the restraint must come up at least to your mid head level. I’m amazed when I’m out driving and I see how many people have that thing in the lowest position. If you get hit from behind your head will simply snap backward over the top of that restraint (ramping effect) – so raise it. And incidentally, the closer to your head the restraint is, the safer you are!
Avoid driving with your arms crossed over the steering wheel.
Driving with your arms uncrossed is a good idea. If your arms are crossed and your airbag goes off, you will get smacked in the face with your own arms. Most airbags deploy at 80 to 190 miles per hour!
Wear your seatbelt!
You can always google pictures if you need more convincing…
Keep loose items low in your car.
They become projectiles in a crash. Now let’s talk about a couple of common myths. Crash physics are complicated with a lot of variables, so it is easy for a lot of “junk science” to get passed off on people, but simple real world examples can help illustrate just how much force can occur even at a low speed.
“There is no visible damage to the vehicle so there can be no injury to the occupants”.
WRONG. Damage to a vehicle cannot always predict damage to a person. In fact, a person can be injured with NO damage to the vehicle. Also, one person could be injured in a vehicle while another passenger is fine. The reverse can also be seen – tremendous damage to a vehicle and minimal injury to a person (think NASCAR crash – but remember those drivers have much more safety gear: helmet and neck support aka HANS device, 5 point restraining harnesses and fire retardant suits).
Vehicles have more built in safety now more than ever. They are designed to help save your life at higher speeds (hitting a tree for example). The vehicle absorbs more energy (crumple zones) and saves a person’s life. But those same attributes can cause the vehicle to transfer more energy into its occupants at slower speeds which might not be life threatening to the occupants, but will still cause bodily harm.
Think about a hammer. You use a hammer to pound a nail into a board. Was there any damage to the hammer after you pounded the nail into the board? No. Most of the energy transferred into sending the nail into the board.The truth is that multiple variables will contribute to the outcome:
- What was the person’s body/head position at the time of impact?
- Did the person brace for the impact or not?
- Were the occupants wearing seatbelts?
- What types of vehicles were involved in the collision?
- What were the speeds of the vehicles?
- And the list goes on from there…
“The vehicles were not going that fast, so there can be no injury to the occupants”.
WRONG. Picture a boat about the size of a car tied to a dock on a lake. The boat is gently banging against the dock because there is a gentle breeze causing very small waves on the lake. What would happen if you put your hand or foot between the dock and the boat? Now imagine dropping a bowling ball dropped on your foot from say 3 feet. What do you think would happen to your foot? In both examples the objects were traveling relatively slowly but still causing a great deal of damage.
WHAT TO DO
Hopefully by now you can appreciate some of the intricacies of motor vehicle collisions. If it ever happens to you here are some things to consider doing. If the collision was minor, both cars can try to pull over to the side of the road if it is safe to do so. If the collision is more severe stay put! Safety is key! Police should be called as soon as possible.
Always exchange insurance information (you do have insurance right?) if you can. Get names and phone numbers of witnesses if you can. Call your insurance company and let them know what happened. Document everything! Take pictures of vehicle damage as well as pictures of your own injuries if they are visible. Seek medical attention even if your injuries seem minor. Injuries often last much longer than you think, so get the help you need – sooner than later. The longer you wait the longer it often takes to heal and the harder it becomes to make a full recovery. So stay safe out there and call us if you have any questions. We are here to help!