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Whiplash is caused by a sudden movement of the head, usually caused by a motor vehicle collision (MVC) but it can also occur in sports and from slip and fall injuries. The combination of the weight of the head (approximately 15 pounds) and the length and strength of the neck predisposes the neck to be injured when a sudden force is applied.  This is also caused by the fact the neck muscles cannot tighten quick enough to prevent injury in these types of injuries.  People with slender necks (i.e., women > men) are more prone to injury.The purpose of this article is to discuss some VERY effective ways to reduce the likelihood of being in a MVC of which the obvious include don’t drink and drive, don’t use your cell phone and drive, and don’t “text” on your phone while driving.  Instead, use a hands-free phone or better yet, pull over to talk as you can’t concentrate or fumble around dialing/texting, and still pay proper attention to what you’re supposed to be doing – that is, driving!

According to a study conducted by the University of Utah, the distraction resulting from talking on a cell phone when driving is more significant than being intoxicated (0.08% blood-alcohol).  Driving inattentively is estimated to be a factor in 20-50% of all police-reported MVC’s of which 8-13% are caused by driver distractions (cell phones is estimated to be 1.5-5% of that).  One study reported both hands-free and hand-held cell phones were similar, reducing the driver response time to about a 40th percentile compared to a “normal driver.”

It’s believed the “cognitive workload” or, the “thinking” part during conversation causes the primary distraction, not the use of the hands.  When compared to talking with a passenger, the University of South Carolina reported planning to speak put far more demands on the brain than listening. Talking to other passengers or on a cell phone are not the only or, the most common of the driving distractions.

The two most common causes of distraction-related accidents are “rubbernecking” (looking at outside objects/events) and adjusting the car radio/CD player.  Cell phone use was reportedly 8th on that list.  The use of a cell phone to text is limited because it is relatively new.  However, a preliminary report from the University of Utah found a 6-fold increase in distraction related accidents when texting.  The obvious concerns include the eyes off the road and in some cases, the hands off the wheel required for texting/email. Of interest, about 50% of drivers between 16 and 24 years of age compared to 22% of 35-44 year olds have admitted to texting while driving.  Some recent highly publicized MCV’s caused by texting drivers include a May 2009 Boston trolley car driver and, the 2008 Chatsworth train collision that killed 25 people.

A July of 2009 Virginia Tech report of video footage of 200 long haul truck drivers who drove over 3 million combined miles, reported 81% of safety critical events involved driving distractions.  They found texting had the greatest relative safety risk at 23 times more likely with their eyes being off the road for 4.6 out of a 6 second during a safety critical event.  Another significant cause of driver distraction is drowsiness, which increased the driver’s risk of a crash or near-crash by 4 times, reaching for a moving object increased the risk by 9 times, looking outside/rubbernecking = 3.7 times, reading = 3 times, applying makeup = 3 times, dialing a cell phone = 3 times and talking or listening on a hand-held devise = 1.3 times.  Eating while driving is also a risk.

As a service to you, we would appreciate it if you would share this information with family and friends so we can all drive more safely and live longer, healthier lives! We realize that you have a choice in where you choose for your healthcare services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for whiplash, chiropractic care is a logical first choice and we would be honored to offer our services to you.

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