From fender benders to head-on collisions, car accidents are a source of constant stress for drivers. You can hear this anxiety clearly articulated by any parent whose teen is learning to drive – car accidents are the leading cause of teen death in the United States and immaturity and inexperience are at least partially to blame for this. In other cases, though, car accident injuries are the result of entirely preventable factors.
Whether you mostly drive solo or spend your days hauling your family to and from activities, it’s time to get serious about injury prevention. If you can’t stop an accident from happening, you can at least mitigate the associated risks.
The simplest way to protect passengers in the event of an accident is by choosing a structurally sound vehicle. In general, large cars fare better than their smaller competitors in accidents, but there are great choices in every vehicle class.
Before you head to the dealership, take a look at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s annual rankings. The group designates specific vehicles as Top Safety Picks based on their features, such as effective restraints and crash prevention technology, among other factors.
Even if you’re buying a used car, there are plenty of online resources that can guide you toward a safe pick. Consumer Reports favors the Ford Focus, Kia Soul, and Volkswagen Jetta if you’re looking for a used car under $10K. Just be sure to get a full vehicle history report on any used car – even safe vehicles can develop hidden dangers over time.
Get The Tech
When you’re looking at the sticker price of a car at the dealership, it’s easy to turn down added safety features just because you don’t want to spend more money – and after all, we did just fine without those features for all these years. In reality, though, these features offer real accident-prevention benefits and make a smart investment.
Which added features are worth the expense? Anti-locking brake systems (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) come standard on most cars today, but if your car doesn’t have these features you should definitely request them. ESC systems, in particular, have been shown to reduce accidents by 35% and also significantly reduce the risk of a rollover, which can be deadly.
Watch Your Head
According to the legal team at Mani Ellis, and Layne, seasoned personal injury lawyers, the most common car accident-related injuries include whiplash, broken bones, and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). These injuries can limit your ability to work, force you to change jobs, and you may face overwhelming medical expenses. TBIs can cause permanent disability, including nerve damage, post-traumatic epilepsy, and memory problems.
One way to reduce the incidence of TBI in car accidents is by decluttering your car. This may seem silly, but even the lightest objects, such as a tissue box, can turn into dangerous projectiles in the event of a crash.
Hard or heavy objects, such as water bottles and mobile devices can do even more serious damage, as countless individuals have learned the hard way. In 2010, Denver mom Christina Hish was in a car accident with her young son in the backseat. When another car struck them, her son was hit by his sippy cup, breaking his skull in 3 places and cutting his scalp, ultimately requiring more than 400 stitches.
Adults seated in the front of the car may actually fare more poorly than children when it comes to projectile-related injuries, especially in the era of the smartphone. Groundbreaking work by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that among police officers involved in car accidents, airbag deployment frequently caused handheld or dashboard mounted devices to be propelled directly into their faces.
While your passenger may not be driving, it’s a good idea to request they put handheld devices and even books away because they can become very dangerous in an accident. The fewer loose objects in your car, the safer you’ll be in the event of a crash.
Beware Of Outerwear
Finally, for those transporting small children, there are several steps you can take to keep them safe, starting with installing the car seat.
It’s well known among modern parents that 3 out of 4 car seats are improperly installed, but getting your child’s seat professionally installed isn’t enough to keep them safe. Rather, there are several other steps you can take to increase rider security, including putting forward facing seats in the middle of the back seat and delaying the move to a backless booster, even if your child is large enough for one.
The winter months can be especially hazardous on the road because of ice and snow, but there’s another risk facing your children: outerwear. Have you ever struggled to get your child into their car seat while they’re dressed in winter gear? You’re not alone. But if you want your child to stay safe, you’d do well to remove those puffy outer layers first.
Placing a child in a car seat while wearing a winter coat can mean they aren’t fully restrained; in the event of an accident, the straps can compress the coat and send you child flying. Essentially, straps that seem tight under normal circumstances can prove far too loose in a crash.
Warm coats come in all shapes and sizes, so opt for something more form fitting this winter or switch your child out of their snow gear before loading them into the car. This may seem inconvenient, but inconvenient trumps deadly when it comes to your child’s safety.
Not every car accident injury is the result of the collision itself. Rather, many of the harms that come to passengers have to do with our own behaviors in the car, like leaving items unsecured on the seat or in the hatchback and improperly using seatbelts and other restraints. So while we can’t take the risks out of driving, we can avoid the most serious dangers. What will you do to make your car safer?