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The data released by NHTSA contains some interesting information. The following information from NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) shows that between 2003 and 2004:

  • Motorcycle fatalities increased from 3,714 to 4,008, an 8% rise.
  • Alcohol-related fatalities dropped from 17,105 to 16,694, a 2.4% decline.
  • Rollover deaths among passenger vehicle occupants increased 1.1% from 10,442 to 10,553.
  • Total fatalities in sport utility vehicles (SUVs) increased 5.6%, from 4,483 to 4,735, while fatalities in passenger cars, pickup trucks and vans decreased a total of 834.
  • Twenty-seven states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico had decreases in the total number of fatalities. The highest percentage of decreases were in the District of Columbia (-36%), Rhode Island (-20%), and Minnesota, Montana, and Nebraska (-13%). The highest percentage increases were in Vermont (+42%), New Hampshire (+35%), New Mexico (+19%), and Alabama and Oklahoma (+15%).
  • Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities dropped to 31,693 - the lowest since 1992. Declining fatalities in passenger cars are consistent with more crash-worthy vehicles in the fleet and increases in safety belt use.
  • Pedestrian deaths declined 2.8% from 4,774 in 2003 to 4,641.
  • Fatalities from large truck crashes increased slightly from 5,036 to 5,190.
  • In 2004, 55% (down from 56% in 2003) of those killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing safety belts. This reportedly underscores the value of the need for states to adopt primary safety belt laws.

NHTSA earlier estimated that highway crashes cost society $230.6 billion a year, about $820 per person. Safety should be a top priority for both the federal government - including Congress - as well as with the states. Each state has a responsibility to do its part to make our highways safer. However, Congress has to set the standard for the states to follow because of the flow of federal money into the states for highway construction and the like.

Injury with Low-Speed Collisions

By Jeffrey Tucker, Dynamic Chiropractic, May 22, 1995

Can pain and dysfunction develop from a low-velocity collision without attendant injury? "Low-speed" impact refers to 1-2 miles per hour and goes up to 20-25 mph. "Moderate speeds" are 25-40 mph and "high speeds" are 40 mph and over.

Jackson and States estimate that 85 percent of all neck injuries seen clinically result from automobile crashes, and of those due to such collisions, 85 percent result from rear-end impacts. Morris reported that rear-end impacts of as little as five mph can give rise to significant symptoms. The dynamic and vehicle factors that contribute to rear-end collision injury are:

  • vehicles involved
  • speed differential
  • vehicle weight
  • location of impact
  • direction of impact
  • head restraint location
  • seat failure
  • seat back angle
  • seat back height

Wiesel states that approximately 10 percent of the occupants of the stricken vehicle in rear-end automobile collisions will develop whiplash syndrome.10 Approximately 10-15 percent of patients suffering from cervical soft tissue injuries following motor vehicle accidents fail to achieve a functional recovery.

Emori and Horiguchi state: "Whiplash, in some cases, persists for years but usually no obvious symptoms show up with radiological or other quantitative diagnostic techniques." Our present technology does not permit precise identification of deranged soft tissues.

Research quoted by White and Panjabe states that an eight mph rear-end collision may result in a two g force acceleration of the impacted vehicle and a five g force acceleration acting on the occupant's head within 250 msec of impact. (One g equals an acceleration of approximately 32 ft./sec.) Car crashes happen in literally one/two eye blinks. The point is that the head and neck experience more g forces than the car in low-speed impacts.

Kenna and Murtaghsay state: "It is wrong to assume that maximum neck injury occurs in a high-speed collision; it is the slow or moderate collision that causes maximum hyperextension of the cervical spine. High-speed collisions often break the back of the seat, thus minimizing the force of hyperextension."

A major dilemma exists for the auto manufacturer, insurance companies, and the consumer of autos. Each would like the vehicle to provide the maximum protection for the occupant with the minimum material damage to the vehicles during a collision. Stiffer cars with spring-like rear bumpers that increase the rebound have less damage costs, however the occupant experiences an increased neck snap and the potential for greater injury. When a car gets struck from the rear by another auto, the very first thing that happens is the struck car is accelerated. The occupant of the struck care experiences higher speeds as it attempts to "catch up" with the car. Navin and Romilly state: "This relative movement of the head to the shoulder during the rebound is the likely cause of neck injuries as this is the point at which dynamic loading of the neck will be maximum." They conclude: "Of major concern to researchers is the lack of structural damage present below impact speeds of 15 kmh. This indicates that the bumper system is the predominant system of energy absorption between the impact and the occupant. It was also observed that deflection of the seatback tends to pitch the occupant forward, with the shoulder displacement leading the head. This relative head to shoulder motion is the likely source of whiplash injury."

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