It's a great success story that most of us probably haven't heard very much about. America's roads have become far safer across the past 20 years. By just about any measure, travelers are much less likely to be injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident than they were in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Here are a few statistics demonstrating how much safer we are in our cars.
Vehicle Miles Driven - Americans traveled 2,172 billion miles in 1991 and 2,979 billion miles in 2009. That's a 37% increase.
Motor Vehicle Accidents - During the same 1991-2009 period, the number of accidents on U.S. roads actually decreased by 10%, dropping from 6,117,000 to 5,505,000. So even though we're traveling more miles, we're having fewer accidents.
Occupant Fatalities - The number of motor vehicle occupants killed in accidents during 1991 was 31,934. That number declined by 23% to 24,474 in 2009. The fatality rate per 1,000 accidents dropped from 5.2 to 4.4 persons. That means that when we do have an accident, it's become less likely that someone traveling in the vehicle will be killed.
Occupant Injuries - The statistics show an even more positive trend with respect to injuries. The number of occupants injured in accidents fell 29% from 2,850,000 in 1991 to 2,011,000 in 2009. The injury rate per 1,000 accidents declined from 465.9 persons to 365.3. Simply put, our motor vehicle accidents seem to be injuring fewer drivers and passengers when they do occur.
It's likely that this general trend toward safer roads is being driven by a combination of factors. It could be the way we're driving that's producing fewer, less serious crashes. It could be the way our roads are designed, maintained or policed. It could also be the active and passive safety features now included in many of our vehicles. But whatever the reasons, we can all agree that this is good (if under-reported) news for our nation's travelers.
But what if you are one of the two million unlucky ones this year?
As encouraging as this trend is, it obviously means little to you if you or someone you care about is actually injured in a car accident. Even in cases where drivers and passengers walk away from a wreck believing they're "uninjured", accidents can have profound, long-lasting health consequences for those involved. It's not uncommon for some types of symptoms to appear only gradually days or weeks after the event itself, delaying effective diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms may also come and go intermittently, making it more difficult to associate them with the accident.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to safeguard your health and improve your chances of a more rapid, complete recovery following an auto accident. Clinical studies have demonstrated that chiropractic care can shorten recovery time and decrease the amount of permanent physical damage sustained in a collision.
- Take care of first things first. Always address any life-threatening injuries first. If you experience (or have reason to suspect) significant bleeding or bruising, broken bones, internal pain, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, or shock, you should seek immediate help from healthcare professionals who specialize in treating trauma injuries.
- Visit your chiropractor as soon as possible after an accident. Do this even if you don't think you've been hurt very badly. Research has shown that early intervention in the form of chiropractic adjustment, massage and supervised exercise and stretching programs can make a big difference in longer-term function.
- Stay active. Activity encourages blood flow to the injured area and promotes healing. It also helps prevent or reduce scar tissue formation and maintain range of motion.
- Strengthen the affected area(s) as directed. Exercise and stretching programs are designed to help prevent future injuries and are an important part of a balanced treatment plan.
Finally, recognize that you may be at increased risk of developing chronic problems. Be sure to tell your doctor if any of the following warning signs apply:
- A prior history of back, neck or shoulder problems (including previous injury).
- Distinct numbness, tingling or pain immediately following an accident.
- Increased muscle tension or reduced range of motion after the crash.
- You were involved in a rear-end collision.
- Your head was turned at the moment of impact.
- You have symptoms that don't resolve or that become generalized.
An auto accident can affect your health (and your lifestyle) for years if you don't receive the proper treatment. So if you or someone you care about has been injured in a collision, please call our office and make an appointment today. Chiropractic care can help put your recovery in the fast lane!