“Minor” Car Accident

September 12th, 2019 by Dr. Curtis Hall

Recently I was in a rear end motor vehicle accident. I am having intense neck and back pain as well as headaches and dizziness. The “powers that be” tell me that since my car sustained no damage or it was a low speed auto accident I couldn’t possibly have been injured. What gives?

First of all, you are not alone; I hear this from auto accident patients every day and this is not in your imagination.

Investigators at UCLA were the first to conduct actual rear impact crashes at low speeds (at 5 miles an hour).

The most important discovery in that research and duplicated in hundreds of other research studies was that the human volunteer actually  experienced 2.5 times more acceleration than the car itself –a fact that goes a long way toward why the car’s occupants can be significantly injured, even when no damage to the car occurs.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration more than half of all whiplash injuries occur in crashes in which there is little or no damage done to the car.

To understand why, we have to explain elastic and plastic collisions. For example an elastic collision, as when one billiard ball strikes another.  On impact, the struck ball accelerates rapidly across the table; there is no deformation of either ball and most of the energy of the collision is expressed as motion(acceleration) of the struck ball.

Now take the example of a plastic collision with two empty milk cartons. If they collide, they crush like accordions. Much of the energy going into the collision is absorbed by the crushing of the cartons.

In a similar way, when your car is struck at a speed not sufficient to cause structural damage to the car, much of that energy is transferred directly to you, resulting in the type of rapid motion (whiplash) that can cause injury.

Most vehicles can withstand a crash of 12-15 miles an hour without causing damage to the car, but the velocity generated by a car crash at less than 5 miles a hour has caused injuries to crash test volunteers and they knew a crash was coming.

Research done by the Spine Research Institute of San Diego using crash test volunteers showed that a car struck at just 5 miles an hour generated the equivalent head movement velocity (whiplash) of going from 0 to 109 MPH in just 1 second!

The truth is it is impossible to correlate the amount of damage done to a human being based upon the damage done to the vehicle. It can’t be done. It takes an examination by a trained professional. An examination that evaluates the structure and body mechanics of the individual. If you are unfortunate to suffer an auto accident, call Hall for a consultation and exam.