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Health Update: Whiplash

Posted Oct 10 2010 10:01pm

  How to Improve Your Odds of Crash Survival

You might ask, what does this headline have to do with chiropractic?  It’s often said case management or patient care is much more than just what we do to our patients (such as in chiropractic, applying a spinal adjustment ). The patient education portion of our care plan can frequently make or break a successful outcome in a case.  It is the goal of this Health Update to potentially save your life by empowering you with the knowledge needed when it’s time to purchase your next car.  This is about what specific automobile features contribute to crash survival – hence, saving lives!

Did you know the car you choose can improve the odds of crash survival by 400%? In the popular magazine Consumer Reports, they wrote, “Ultimately, safety is active and passive, balancing the ability to avoid an accident and to survive one.” Typically, the first thing we do as consumers when we consider safety in a particular car is to look at the crash-test results.  While this is important, we must first consider the size and weight so we compare crash-test results between cars in the same weight class since statistics show there are two times as many occupant deaths annually in small vs. large cars. Keeping size and weight in the foreground, when evaluating crash-test results, the front and rear end “crumple zone” of the car should be designed to absorb crash forces by buckling and bending in a serious collision. If you’ve ever watched race cars crash, you usually see car parts bend and break off as they bounce off the guard rail or other cars, sometimes to the point where all that is left is the cage surrounding the driver.  Amazingly, the race car driver often climbs out of the cage and walks away, seemingly unharmed.

The next important car feature to consider is a car with a structurally superior passenger compartment. Look for a high quality “restraint system” made up of 3 components: seat belts, airbags, and head restraints. These work together to keep us safe and in place during a crash while the outside of the car crumples, absorbing the energy of the crash.

So where do you look to get this information?  There are several resources available:

1.    The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) tests front end impacts at 35 mph, and in 1997 added side impact tests at 38 mph.  They also test for the rollover potential for SUVs and trucks and grade the results for each category from 1 to 5 stars representing the likelihood of suffering a life-threatening injury in a crash. 


2.    Since 1995, the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has used a method reviewed by Consumer Reports as being more realistic by crashing only half of the vehicle at similar speeds into fixed barriers, since most crashes are not direct, whole car strikes.


3.    Consumer Reports is a 3rd option. They integrate the data from both NHTSA and IIHS and gives us their “CR Safety Assessment,” and run 40 new cars each year through numerous individual tests.  

Other important “accident avoiding” features often overlooked include: Tires - greatly impact braking and emergency handling so REPLACE them as needed; Braking-check for the distance required to stop the car at different speeds- the shorter, the better; Emergency Handling-data about accident avoidance and choosing a vehicle with electronic stability control (ESC), especially in SUVs is wise; Acceleration-the quicker a car can get to highway speeds, the better; Driver position and visibility-a good view of the surroundings, especially the “blind spots” is important. 

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