When neck movements occur suddenly, or unexpectedly, it is very likely an injury will occur.
An injury occurs typically because the muscles of the neck are unable to tighten quick enough to the sudden or unexpected movement. When it is from a motor vehicle accident, especially from an impact from behind, it easy to envision the resultant injury to the neck.
The impact is surely forceful enough, and in most cases sudden and unexpected, to cause an injury to the neck. But even if the impending collision is expected, the muscle of the neck are overpowered to result in trauma as well.
That said, there are very basic pieces of advice to reduce the chances of being in a car accident in the first place. This may seem like basic suggestions, but prevention is always the best medicine, and when a neck injury and life long pain and suffering are common consequences of car accident, being reminded of these suggestions are helpful.
1) Consuming Alcohol and Driving: I know, simple, common sense advice, but you would be surprised how often this happens, and really neck pain and suffering is but one of many evils that happen with drinking and driving.
2) Using your Cell phone and driving: Again, seems like common sense, but having one hand on the wheel, and one hand on the phone, decreases reaction time, decreases concentration, and decreases physical ability to maneuver your vehicle.
3) Do not text on your phone and drive: How often do you see someone doing this? Scary is it not?
For the reasons above, and mostly not paying attention, will significantly increase your chances in causing a car accident.
University of Utah actually determined that being intoxicated was less of a problem for causing motor vehicle accidents, when compared with distractions from cell phone use.
Not paying attention while driving is hypothesized to be involved in 20-50% of motor vehicle accident, reported by police in which up to 13% resulted from the driver not paying attention.
Another reported study found that using the speaker component of your phone vs using the cell phone with your hands were alike. Both decrease the drivers ability to respond in time, when measured against a driver not using a phone at all.
It would seem that hands free would be less likely to result in an accident vs hand held. However, it is believed that the energy it takes our brain to concentrate or, the “thinking” part during the conversation causes the primary distraction, not the use of hands.
South Carolina University also found that when compared to talking with a passenger, planning to speak put far more demands on the brain than listening. Thus, we become “distracted”, and it is these “distractions” that increase the probability of an accident.
Another form of “distraction”, the obvious concern are the eyes of the road, while the vehicle is still moving. We have a fascination with other accidents, and we rubberneck when an accident is ahead.
As we focus on the other accident, not only are our eyes off the road, more then likely, traffic ahead is slowed, if not stopped. Wham, another accident.
5) Changing Stations/CD Player: another distraction in which we are not focused on the road.
Of all the factors listed above, texting seems to be the most worrisome. The University of Utah study found a factor of 6x times more likely to be in a car accident due to being distracted because of texting.
It seems that texting while driving is more common with the young. Half the drivers asked between the ages of 16-24 admitted to texting while driving, whereas with drivers between the ages of 35 years old and 44 years, 22% admitted to texting.
6) Drowsiness: another significant distraction responsible for an increased risk for a motor vehicle accident is being drowsy, which increased the drivers risk of a crash or near crash by 4 times, according to a July 2009 Virginia Tech report.
They studies analysis of videos of 200 truck drivers, Combined, the drivers studied logged over 3 million miles.
Results indicated that texting while driving had the greatest safety risk at 23 times more likely to have their eyes being off the road.
Other variables for increase in safety risk was reaching for a moving object, with a 9 fold increase, while rubbernecking increased the risk 3.7 times, reading increased it 3 times, dialing a cell phone increased risk 3 times, and talking or listening on a hand held device increased the risk 1.3 times.
The bottom line: Neck injuries from motor vehicle accident, let alone fatalities, are a very real concern. Concentrating on the function of “driving” is paramount, but avoiding the above distractions can not only save your neck in the future, it may even safe your life.
Till next time, watching your back and neck.
Doctor Joel Rosen