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By: Dr Gary Robertson DC

Most motorists have experienced minor collisions and impacts if they have been driving for any time. There is a confusing issue surrounding the speed of the vehicle in an accident and the injuries that result.  Drivers involved in high speed accidents, in which significant damage to their vehicle results, are not seriously injured, however, injuries occur to drivers involved in in lower speed accidents in which the vehicle damage is minimal. On the face of it, this would seem to defy logic. Perhaps even more confusing is the all too common example of a horrific crash in which one of the vehicle's passengers is killed, while another walks away without a scratch.

These examples illustrate the obvious, i.e., that injury risk is dependent on many factors, and these factors are not necessarily shared by all vehicle passengers equally. Accident factors include the speed of the vehicle, its change in velocity (delta V) as a result of the collision, and the acceleration forces resulting from the collision. From this, it is possible to roughly gauge the effects on the occupants. It is well known that a number of other factors can increase or mitigate the risk for injury. For example, in the classic whiplash trauma, females are at twice the risk as males. Persons who are unaware of the impending crash are at greater risk of injury than those who are able to brace themselves for the impact. Occupants with their heads turned at the time of impact have an increased the risk of injury, as will as victims with a history of neck injury or neck pain. There are dozens of other factors which can also influence the risk for injury. In order to assess the true risk in such a crash exposure, it is therefore helpful to know not only the crash dynamics, but the human risk factors as well.
There have been a number of research studies involving crash tests in which living human subjects have been exposed to low speed crashes. Some authors have reported that minor injuries occur in collisions in which the delta V is 5 mph or above. Canadian researchers reported that more than 30% of their test subjects experienced minor injuries at speeds as low as 2.5 mph. These studies can tell us a great deal about crashes, however, they cannot tell us what the minimum threshold for injury is. For example, we don't know who will suffer the greates injuries when comparing a middle-aged woman with degenerative disease in her neck who was unaware of the impending crash with a man with a long history of recurrent bouts of headaches and neck pain. The studies show that there is no known threshold crash exposure below which injury is not possible. There is no known crash speed below which injuries cannot occur.

If you have been in an accident and have pain, even if it is minor, consult with a doctor who has experience treating accident injuries. Our professional staff has over 20 years experience in managing Personal Injury cases.
Author: Dr. Gary Robertson is a 1989 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic. He has over 20 years expreience treating patients with accident injuries and has post-graduate training in Whiplash and Spinal Trauma, Spinal Biomechanics and Spinal Rehabilitation. Dr Robertson serves as the President for the Dade County Chiropractic Society.