While doctors of chiropractic enjoy helping their patients get better, the preference is to avoid injury in the first place, and if that’s not possible, to reduce the risk for serious injury. This is especially important when it comes to car accidents, as whiplash associated disorders (WAD) injuries can persist for months to years and greatly reduce one’s ability to carry out their normal activities.
One of the most important steps you can take is to focus on the road while driving and eliminate distractions, which includes not texting while driving. In one study, researchers observed that even using hands-free functions increased the risk a driver would drift into another lane, drive too closely to the car in front of them, and be less responsive to changing road conditions. Other common distractions include fiddling with the radio, eating, reading (yes, people do this!), talking with other passengers (especially if you turn your head to look at them), and driving while intoxicated, while under the influence of legal/illicit drugs or medications, or while tired.
Strategies to stay safe on the road include taking regular breaks (if driving a long distance), keeping your eyes moving (check mirrors frequently), not speeding or driving faster than road conditions allow, following traffic rules, using your signals, avoiding night and bad weather driving, heeding caution signs, and keeping your car properly serviced (including making sure there is enough air in your tires and that your tires are in good condition). Additionally, it’s important to respond quickly to vehicle recalls. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”
Sometimes it’s not always possible to avoid an accident. Wearing a seatbelt can reduce the risk you’ll be ejected from the vehicle in the event of an accident (which almost certainly results in fatality) or suffer more serious injuries. Making sure your head rest is properly adjusted can also reduce your risk for a serious head/neck injury.
Automobile manufacturers continue to implement safety improvements in their vehicles. For example, a review of data between 1995 to 2016 supports that vehicle safety design improvements reduced the frequency of rollover crashes from 7% to 3.5% when comparing 1995-1999 vs. 2010-2016 model year vehicles, respectively. Starting in 1997, General Motors (GM) introduced high retention seats in their new model cars, SUVs, vans, and light trucks. A recent study compared the 1991 to 2000 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data to the 2001-2008 FARS data to evaluate the impact of high retention seats. The data show that in rear impacts, high retention seats reduced the fatality risk from 27.1% to 16.6% and the risk of serious injury by 70.2%.
If you’re involved in a car accident, even a low-speed collision, it’s important to be evaluated by a doctor of chiropractic to ensure any soft-tissue injuries that result are properly treated as soon as possible in order to reduce your risk for ongoing pain and disability.