BY DR. LISA GOODMAN, DC, CCSP, CACCP, CF-L

Sometimes car accidents cannot be avoided. For example, a driver swerving to avoid hitting a deer might hit another vehicle instead. Or a driver sliding through an icy intersection may run into another car. However, car accidents caused by impaired or distracted drivers are very avoidable. In all cases, car accidents can be extremely scary and cause serious injury or even death. Most of us don’t anticipate being involved in an auto accident, but take a few minutes to read this article today so that you’ll be better prepared as we head into icy winter months.

How to Avoid Auto Accidents

There are several ways that we can each decrease our risk of being involved in an auto accident. Being involved in an accident that should have been avoided is an awful, terrible feeling.

Follow traffic laws and obey speed limits – pay attention to school zones and work zones

Adjust your driving style for the weather – rain, ice, snow. Take extra time to scrape off your entire windshield (not just a tiny window), start slowing down much sooner when approaching stop signs, drive slower depending on visibility, allow more space between you and the car in front of you.

Put your phone away. This goes beyond texting and driving. Drivers are VERY distracted by their devices right now. Music, texting, social media, navigation, phone calls are all diverting our attention.

Do not drive impaired. This should go without saying, do not drink and drive! There are other impairments that can be caused by medication, drugs or even fatigue. If you are not at 100%, don’t get behind the wheel.

First Things First

If the worst should happen, whether you are a victim or at-fault. The following should be considered immediately:

Without moving or getting out of the car, evaluate yourself and if possible your passengers for serious injury. Is everyone talking & breathing? Is anyone bleeding or have serious pain? If there is any risk of neck injury, do not move, wait for emergency responders. Call 911 or ask a bystander to do so.

Evaluate the scene of the accident, is there any danger of the scene worsening? (potential for fire, oncoming traffic). Secure the scene before exiting a vehicle. When in doubt, wait for emergency responders.

If the car is drivable and the injuries are not severe, drive the car out of the way of traffic to a safe area.

Once the scene is secure, if possible receive evaluation from an ambulance to be sure of no serious injuries. When in doubt, accept transportation to a trauma hospital for a full and thorough exam which may include advanced imaging.

It is very important to have a police report filed for serious accidents, and if police do not come to the scene, take photos of the scene as well as both parties insurance information and driver’s license. This is the only time you will be assured of collecting necessary data to ensure payment of property damage and medical care. Gather witness contact information if available.

Am I Injured?

Many times, car accidents appear minor. Even very minor ‘fender benders’ can result in significant injuries to your muscles, ligaments and joints. Common symptoms like headaches, neck pain, jaw pain and fatigue should be evaluated. Symptoms also tend to appear 1-3 weeks following impact as adrenaline wears off and healing begins. I recommend a musculoskeletal evaluation within the first 3 weeks following an accident. If you see a chiropractor or medical doctor, you can be sure you get an accurate diagnosis and start treatment immediately. A swift response to minor injuries after a car accident can prevent them from becoming much worse in the short term and long term.

Auto Insurance & Med-Pay

Often called “Med-Pay” for short, Medical Payments Coverage is a type of insurance which provides at least $5,000 coverage for the insured driver and passengers to pay for injuries sustained in a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. Although the coverage in Colorado is mandatory, there is a provision for consumers who do not want med-pay coverage to opt-out in writing. If you have Med Pay, treatment including chiropractic, massage and physical therapy will most likely be covered. If you do not have med-pay, your health insurance may cover costs.

One of the main benefits of med-pay is covering your injuries if you are at fault or if you hit a stationary object (ie. a guard rail or pole). Another benefit of med pain is immediate coverage of injuries. Yes, if the other driver is at fault, they are ultimately responsible for your medical bills, however this can take some time to settle – in some cases a few years.

Final Thoughts

Driving through the neighborhood streets of Wash Park can be dicey in the winter. Let’s work together as a community to decrease our risk of accidents. I recommend we put down our phones and take a little more time to allow for delays and weather this winter. If you are injured there are a number of community-involved businesses who can provide thorough exam and treatment to get you back to your pre-injury self quickly. Recommend Wash Park Chiropractic, PT Lifetime Physical Therapy, Care Now Urgent Care, Porter & Swedish Hospital ER, Peace of Mind Massage.

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