Car accidents, while sometimes preventable, are unfortunately inevitable. Driving remains the most popular mode of transportation in the United States. With so many of us traveling by vehicle on the roads, it is impossible to completely elminate vehicle accidents. With car accidents, come injuries. The most common car accident injuries range from minor to potentially fatal. Luckily, with the right precautionary measures, drivers can minimize the damage caused by injuries. According to the National Safety Council, there are nearly 10 million crashes a year. Fortunately, these accidents are rarely life-threatening, and only three out of every 1,000 crashes involved fatalities. While this is good news, it’s an unfortunate reality that these crashes are often costly and do result in injuries. The CDC Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries database has documented all vehicle accidents on U.S. roadways and provided helpful data about the most common types of car accidents, the average costs of accidents, and the most common car accident injuries. Using this information, drivers can come up with a strategy to avoid accidents and minimize the damage caused by a vehicle accident.
Car accidents are one of the nation’s most common reasons for injury. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that motor vehicle accidents cost $871 billion a year. The NHTSA calculated that 3.9 million people sustained car accident injuries in one year with 24 million vehicles damaged. Harm from loss of life, pain, and decreased quality of life due to injuries cost $594 billion a year. The economic detriment of these accidents is astounding, and many are left to suffer from injuries that make it hard to live out their day-to-day lives.
With car accident injuries being an unavoidable risk, it’s important to understand the types of injuries sustained from most car accidents. These injuries can range from small, self-healing irritations to severe trauma that requires immediate medical attention. Both drivers and passengers are susceptible to injuries, and they can happen regardless of who is at fault. By knowing what injuries are most likely to occur, drivers can strategize a preventative plan to avoid these injuries.
Some of the most serious car accident injuries involve the head and brain. Drivers and passengers involved in high-speed collisions can hit their heads against windows, dashboards, or steering wheels. The repercussions can range from mild concussions to more severe traumatic brain injuries, going into a coma, and other long-term cognitive defects. Other injuries include problems with hearing, loss of or damaged vision, and skull fractures. Head injuries often require extensive, long-term treatment.
If you are involved in a vehicle accident, the best way to prevent head and brain injuries is good posture. Whether you are a driver or a passenger, you should be sitting straight and upright with your feet flat on the ground any time you are traveling in a vehicle. Wearing your seatbelt across your chest can also prevent your body from abruptly moving forward or side to side, which can cause you to strike your head on the steering wheel, dashboard, window, or other parts of the car.
Back injuries are common following car crashes. Sufferers can experience pain and soreness in the back follow even mild accidents. A common car accident injury is a herniated disk, where patients deal with numbness, weakened muscles, and lower back pain. In severe cases, spinal cord damage can affect victims’ nervous systems leaving them unable to feel and control their arms, hands, legs, feet, and other parts of the body. Spinal cord damage can also result in paralysis.
Again, best practice is good posture. Sit upright with your back firmly against the seat. If you are a passenger, do not lay down or lay sideways while traveling in the car. And always wear your seatbelt.
Whiplash, a sprain or strain of the neck tissue, is a common and well-known car accident injury. Whiplash occurs in accidents when the head and neck move suddenly and drastically. This severe movement can cause serious damage to the neck’s muscles and ligaments. Whiplash injuries vary from person to person with different levels of damage depending on the person’s health and the gravity of the accident. Patients often suffer from generalized neck pain, swelling, and sometimes paralysis of the vocal cords. This injury is common after rear-end collisions.
To avoid neck injuries, be sure to face forwards at all times while traveling in the car. Do not slouch in your chair. Wear your seatbelt.
Chest injuries resulting from car accidents are often some of the most severe. These injuries come from blunt force trauma sustained in high-speed, high-impact collisions. Chest injuries are more common in higher impact accidents, such as trucking accidents. Patients might suffer from broken ribs and collapsed lungs. These can cause immediate problems such as internal bleeding and damage to the internal organs, abdomen, and pelvis. Those with preexisting heart problems are also at risk of going into traumatic cardiac arrest. These types of severe chest injuries require medical attention immediately.
Chest injuries are harder to avoid because the driver or passenger's posture does not affect the likelihood of the injury as much as head or neck injuries. Wear your seatbelt to avoid being abruptly thrown in an accident.
Car accidents also commonly result in injuries to the arms, legs, hands, and feet. Victims can suffer from broken bones, sprains, cuts, and ligament damage. Car accidents can also lead to emotional distress for drivers and passengers involved such as increased anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The most important preventative step that a driver or passenger can take is to wear a seatbelt. Best practice - always buckle up. You should also practice good posture, with your feet flat on the ground, your legs at a 90 degree angle at your knees, your backside on the seat and your back firmly against the support of your seat.
You can’t control other drivers or the conditions of the road, but there are many things you can do to help prevent car accidents and associated injuries. Paying careful attention to how you drive, taking the right precautions, and being mindful of when you’re on the road can all help prevent car accident injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following tips:
Vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of injuries in the United States. Auto accidents can result in damages ranging from minor scrapes and bruises to more serious, and even life-threatening, injuries. By taking the right precautionary measures, drivers can greatly reduce their risk of vehicle accident injuries. Make sure to always wear your seatbelt, sit correctly in your chair, and practice safe driving so that you can avoid being the common car accident injuries.
“Fact #946: October 10, 2016 Driving Alone in a Private Vehicle Is the Most Common Means of Transportation to Work.” Energy.gov, www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/fact-946-october-10-2016-driving-alone-private-vehicle-most-common-means.
Lowy, Joan. “Traffic Accidents in the U.S. Cost $871 Billion a Year, Federal Study Finds.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 29 May 2014, www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/motor-vehicle-crashes-u-s-cost-871-billion-year-federal-study-finds.
“Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Oct. 2014, www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/crash-injuries/index.html.
Toups, Des. “How Many Times Will You Crash Your Car?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 19 Aug. 2011, www.forbes.com/sites/moneybuilder/2011/07/27/how-many-times-will-you-crash-your-car/#2ab766854e62.
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