Car Accident Injuries: Causes and Preventive Measures

Injury-causing car accidents have been going on pretty much since cars were invented. The first recorded accidental injury occurred in 1869. An Irish woman named Mary Ward was thrown from the steam-powered carriage in which she was traveling when she hit an especially deep rut in the road. She was immediately crushed by one of the wheels, her injuries causing her instant death. In fact, her cousin had been the inventor of this new type of vehicle, in a cruel example of irony.

In the last 25 years or so, injuries from accidents resulting in fatalities have decreased by an impressive 50% worldwide. This is mainly due to the increased emphasis by governments and car manufacturers on safety, including the standard use of airbags to reduce the number of serious injuries and deaths caused by frontal and side collisions between cars.

Unfortunately, the United States is one of the few nations where injuries and deaths caused by automobiles have increased during this same period. Experts suggest there are several causes for this, including a higher number of motorists overall, a steady increase in the number of large trucks and SUVs sold, and a sharp increase in the number of people using cell phones and other technological devices while driving. their automobiles.

Another common cause of car accident injuries is “rubber neck.” This is the term for slowing down (sometimes suddenly) to see an unusual situation happening on (or near) the road. Often people do this to check for car accidents, which can cause other motorists further back who aren’t paying close attention to fail to slow down or stop in time. Rubbernecking is the #1 cause of all rear-end car accidents, and whiplash injuries in particular, in the United States.

Auto accident prevention designed to reduce injury and fatality numbers focuses on technology and changing human behavior while behind the wheel. Modern cars and trucks are equipped with airbags, and proximity and drift monitors are also becoming more common. Both emit loud tones to alert the driver of the car that the vehicle is entering a dangerous area. In Europe, this has been shown to reduce accidental injuries from both car-to-car collisions and single-car crashes.

Changing driver behaviors to reduce car accidents is a tough nut to crack, especially in the United States, where car ownership is ingrained in the culture. People spend so much time in their cars these days that it results in a feeling of invulnerability. The subsequent lack of defensive driving is one reason accidental injuries from motor vehicle collisions in the United States are bucking the global downward trend.

Perhaps surprisingly, US states with less restrictive speed limit laws actually have a slightly lower incidence of car crashes causing injury or death. This can be partly explained by fewer cars on the road per capita vs. some of the states with lower speed limits. However, even when adjusted for this effect, the stats still show a slight advantage in states with higher caps. Advocates of stricter enforcement of posted speed limits may be following the wrong strategy if the goal is to prevent car accident injuries.

A better approach to accident prevention should probably focus on two areas that lead to many serious car accidents: driver distraction and age. Cell phones are becoming the biggest distraction, and more and more states prohibit their use by the driver while the vehicle is in motion. Even if you live where it’s allowed, that’s an extremely bad idea! Recent studies have shown a clear connection between phone use and car accidents.

Driver age has an interesting correlation with car accidents that cause injuries and fatalities. At both ends of the spectrum, ages 16-20 and 70+, a much higher percentage of accidents occur than with other age ranges. Crash prevention based on driver age is not easily implemented, but calls from the public and advocacy groups are on the rise. Some suggestions include mandatory driver education courses, annual driving tests to re-evaluate skills, and even a bumper sticker or magnet on all cars driven by a person in any of the age demographics. The latter implies the idea that alerting other drivers will increase their alertness when driving defensively, reducing the frequency of accidents.

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