How to prepare for a rear-end collision
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, August 17th 2018
The rear-end crash is the most common type of vehicle collision.
Despite the latest technological advances, this crash can be very dramatic and result in significant injury,
even at relatively low speeds.
What should a driver do to lessen the likelihood of it happening? When it does happen,
and what is the best way to behave in a defensive position and posture to reduce the whiplash injury potential?
Driving with the tail lights on will make the vehicle more noticeable to others following.
It will likely allow for more space behind. Using the four-way flashers, when others are
following too close will often have the desired effect of getting them to back off.
Changing lanes on a multi-lane road is also advisable. Using a traveled lane with the best
escapes is also a way of accessing spaces rather than braking to avoid a crash.
It is often better to steer to a safe zone rather than slam on the brakes and hope for the best.
What should a driver do to mitigate the injury potential of being hit from behind,
when the crash is seen to be coming? Pressing back against the seat, with the head against
the headrest, is the best defense against such a predictable hit.
This will likely reduce the injury potential. A hard brake is also advisable.
This will reduce the chance of vaulting a vehicle forward and not only reduce the injury potential,
but also guard against a multi-vehicle chain-reaction crash.
There is a very predictable knee-reflex action when a driver is hit from behind.
The foot on the brake relaxes in the crash, unless there is a very conscious intent to keep it firmly on the brake pedal.
The position of the headrest is very important. There is new advice concerning this positioning.
Just as the hand position traditional recommendation of 10 and 2 has been changed to a 9 and 3,
because of the now-ubiquitous airbag, there has been a slight change in the headrest position.
Many medical professionals are recommending the ears be poisoned at slightly below the centre of the headrest,
not the middle, as has been previously suggested for many years. This new position is meant to offset the tendency for the
human body to ride up in the seat when the rear-end collision takes place.
There is considerable self discipline required to react in this manner to a predictable rearend crash.
It is very important to align the torso, head and neck in a predictable hit-from-behind crash.
This will substantially reduce the injury potential. Here is a quote from a medical professional concerning this topic.
“Bracing prior to the rear-end crash is exactly the right thing to do.
The more aware one is of the impending crash, the more protective the stabilizing musculature will be of
deep structure such as ligaments, discs and nerves.
It is possible a bit of muscle strain will result from bracing against acceleration before a crash,
but it is far preferable to the serious and persistent injury to deep tissues.
Muscles heal in a matter of weeks, ligaments over months, while neurological disturbances
and accompanying pain syndromes often persist for years.”
Pressing back in the seat before the hit will also reduce the stress on the spine.
Many headrests are not properly adjusted. They are placed too far back or are too low or high.
Greater potential for injury is a distinct possibility. Headrests molded to the seat structure
are non-functional in most low-speed rear-end collisions.
Using the rear-view mirror in an effective manner will give advanced warning of a crash.
Always check it when decelerating, stopping or slowing dramatically.
Preparing for the hit is preferable to being surprised by it.