Winter in Minnesota generally means several months of snowfall. With this precipitation there can be treacherous driving conditions. Slick roads and poor visibility put everyone on the road at a higher risk of having an accident. In fact, the latest snowstorm here in Minnesota caused over 600 accidents in a very short period of time!
Thankfully, not all of these accidents result in injury or fatality to the motorists. But the reality is that some do. Some estimate there are 3-4 million acceleration/deceleration injuries (whiplash) every year in the U.S. About 50% of people with chronic neck pain attribute it to a past car accident. So it is worth examining if more of these can be prevented.
No one plans on having a car crash ruin their day, but here are some steps you can take to hopefully prevent an accident or prevent being injured if you are in an accident.
- Wear Your Seatbelt – This is probably a no-brainer to most but it can be easily forgotten. While wearing your safety belt is no guarantee that you won’t be injured - your odds of surviving an accident and walking away from it go up drastically. And of course, it’s the law.
- Remove all distractions – Even if you are not one who talks on your cell phone while driving (or one who sends texts) – the cell phone can still be a distraction. Incessant buzzing or ringing notification of your incoming texts, social media updates or calls can be a significant distraction at anytime, let alone when navigating icy streets and snowy highways. Shut off your phone and radio and remove potential background noise.
- Adjust your Seat and Headrest – Did you know that women (especially those of slight stature) are more commonly injured in rear-end car collisions than men(1, 3)? One potential reason that has been pointed to is women’s tendency to sit with their heads farther forward from the headrest due to hair styles/hair accessories, etc…The farther the head is from the head rest at the time of impact, the greater likelihood of injury in a collision. Adjust your seat so that your headrest sits approximately 1 inch from the back of your head. This allows the headrest to absorb some of the stress in the event of an accident, rather than your neck!
- Take it Slow – Crashes of less than 5mph have been shown to cause injury(2), but it makes sense that the slower you go (within safe reason) in icy conditions the faster you will be able to react and hopefully avoid accident and injury.
- Adjust your Rear-View and Side Mirrors – After you adjust your seat (see #3), make sure to also adjust your mirrors so that you can clearly see behind and to the sides of your vehicle. (This is especially important when there are multiple drivers of your vehicle.) Good sight-lines can help you avoid potential accidents. Also, chances of injury in an accident are significantly less in rear-end collisions if you are braced and can anticipate the impact.
While there is no guarantee that these tips will keep you accident or injury-free - these pointers should assist you this winter season as you hit the road. Accidents are named as such for a reason – you may not prevent every instance, but you can at least take steps to minimize your risk.
Download a free “Auto Accident Assistance Kit” – A Step-By-Step Guide To Get You Safely Through The Scene Of An Auto Accident.
Freeman MD, Croft AC, Haneline MT: Late whiplash risk factor analysis of a random sample of patients with chronic spine pain.
Freeman MD, Centeno C, Croft AC, Nicodemus CN: Significant spinal injury resulting from low-level accelerations: a comparison with whiplash. International Congress on Whiplash-Associated Disorders, Berne, Switzerland, March 9-10, 1, 2001.
Croft AC, Haneline MT, Freeman MD: Differential Occupant Kinematics and Forces Between Frontal and Rear Automobile Impacts at Low Speed: Evidence for a Differential Injury Risk, International Research Council on the Biomechanics of Impact (IRCOBI), International Conference, 2002, September 18-20, Munich, Germany, 365-366.