Newer Model Cars May Cause More Spinal Injuries
While newer cars, with side airbags and other safety features have significantly reduced the number of serious injuries and fatalities from car collisions, new research seems to point to the fact that newer model cars may cause more spinal injuries. Car manufacturers and safety experts have been concentrating on serious head and chest injuries in their testing over the past two decades, leading to the addition of side-impact airbags, better safety belts and the construction of the vehicles themselves which focus on preventing these head and chest injuries. These changes came about in 2004, when federal side impact protection standards were revised, after research showed a high rate of fatalities from side crashes and head injuries.
Focus on Head and Chest Injury Prevention Leaves Spine Vulnerable
There has, however, been a tradeoff to the focus on head and chest injury prevention, which is an increase in disabling lumbar spinal injuries. This issue is being studied in Milwaukee, where researchers have the only full-scale crash test laboratory in an academic setting. A reconstruction team goes to work figuring out why certain injuries occur in certain types of accidents, nearly as soon as the accident occurs, recreating the accident in their state-of-the-art lab. The hypothesis from these researchers is that the seats in newer cars are designed specifically to protect the chest and head, but there is a trade-off, in that the seats are more likely to cause spinal injuries in the event of a collision.
Newer Cars Still Safer, Overall, Than Older Cars
This is not to say that the newer cars aren’t significantly safer than the older cars, as today’s cars are specifically designed to keep those inside alive during a collision, specifically protecting the head and chest. New cars can detect obstacles, automatically brake, and almost always come equipped with side-curtain airbags. It is believed that because we are seeing more spinal injuries, seats in cars will need to be re-designed with this in mind—not to decrease the protection afforded the head and chest, but to somehow add safety features which will protect the spin in the event of a collision.
Car Accidents the Most Common Cause of Spinal Injuries
Car accidents are among the most common causes of spinal injuries. A forceful car collision can easily cause injuries, from minor back pain to much more significant spinal injuries, some of which can even cause paralysis. Between the years 2010 and 2015, vehicle accidents were the cause of 38 percent of all spinal injuries (Prior to 1998 this number was as high as 48 percent). Since about 11,000 new spinal injuries occur in the United States each year, this means about 4,200 spinal injuries are the result of car accidents. About 82 percent of all those with spinal injuries are male, and the average age of injury for those with spinal injuries has increased from 29 years in the late 1970’s to 42 years in 2015. The average first-year expenses for a serious spinal cord injury is a staggering $198,000.
Factors Which Affect the Likelihood of Injury in a Vehicle Collision
For any given driver or passenger of a vehicle which is involved in an auto accident, the likelihood of injury is affected by a number of internal and external factors. The internal factors include the person’s sex, weight, height, musculature and pre-existing medical conditions. The external factors are the relative mass and velocity of all vehicles involved in the accident, as well as the seat, headrest, bumper and restraint system in the vehicle. The most vulnerable situation for those inside a vehicle is when it is hit from the rear, with the most vulnerable area of the spine being the neck. Hopefully, researchers will be able to design a seat which can protect the spine while also protecting the head and chest.
Contact Our Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers
If you or someone you love has sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident, it is important to speak to an experienced Milwaukee spinal cord injury lawyer immediately. At Aiken & Scoptur, S.C., our Milwaukee injury attorneys are dedicated to getting clients the full compensation they deserve. We take all personal injury cases on contingency, so you will not pay us a fee unless we help you obtain money damages. To discuss your case with an experienced trial lawyer, call us at 414-914-2803 or contact us today. We represent clients throughout the state from offices in Wauwatosa and Wild Rose.