This is the first of a four-part series titled Nightmare Scenario Car Accidents discussing the often traumatic implications of automobile accidents. According to Merriam Webster, the term traumatic is used to describe a disorderly mental or behavioral state that is caused by severe stress or physical injury. In terms of a car accident, the events of an accident could be shocking and result in severe physical harm or death.
Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates there were 37,461 fatalities in motor vehicle crashes in 2016. This represented a rise of 6% over the previous year. Of those killed, approximately 64% were occupants of passenger vehicles, 16% were pedestrians, 13% were traveling by motorcycle, and 2% were in both large commercial tractor-trailers and on bicycles. In Colorado, there were 608 roadway fatalities and 56% of these were single-car accidents.
Accidents are a Reality
For the majority of Americans, driving a vehicle is virtually a necessity. Those who reside in major cities with developed and efficient systems of public transportation like New York make up a small percentage of the country's population. One harsh reality associated with driving is the potential for an accident. Traumatic accidents may involve witnessing a horrifying occurrence, such as a vehicle flipped upside down, a vehicle spinning out of control, or someone ejected from their car. These are events that you would typically only see in a movie, but the reality can be terrifying.
Causes & Prevalence of Severe Accidents
Roughly 1% of those in the U.S. will incur an injury in a vehicle accident each year. These accidents result in over 3 million injuries. For approximately every 100 million miles of travel, there are about 1.2 deaths. Unfortunately, many motorists do not demonstrate caution when driving. The majority of these accidents are preventable, as they result from driver carelessness and negligence. Examples include those driving while distracted, speeding, and operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Potential Effects of Serious Accidents
There is a host of potentially negative consequences that can result from serious motor vehicle accidents that include:
- Physical bodily injuries that may require surgery and/or a period of rehabilitation.
- Physical or cognitive injuries that may hinder future employment.
- Damage to bones or tissues that lead to chronic pain.
- Psychological problems that may negatively impact sleeping, appetite, and mood.
- A brain injury; 43% of these people have a related impairment or disability one year later.
- Financial problems from the costs of medical care, rehab, and lack of earnings from an inability to work.
Motor vehicle accidents may cause traumatic stress. U.S. males cite vehicle accidents as the most common traumatic event they experience and females say it is the second-leading cause of traumatic distress. Auto accidents cause economic damages of nearly $100 billion annually and create a fair amount of emotional damage as well. Survivors of severe auto accidents commonly develop difficulties, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.
The vast majority of those who endure motor vehicle accidents do not develop significant mental health conditions. Studies show that approximately 9% of survivors will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a condition specifically caused by a shocking or horrific event. Those with PTSD struggle to move on with their lives after the traumatic event. Many with the condition experience stress or fear, without being exposed to actual danger. The problem may be long-term (chronic) or short-term (acute). Among those who seek mental health treatment for PTSD following severe auto accidents, about 27% also experienced some type of anxiety disorder and 15% developed a phobia related to driving.
This initial segment of the series has outlined data relating to the frequency of auto accidents, common causes, and serious consequences that are both physical and psychological in nature. Moving forward, we will discuss what to do after a serious auto accident, discuss some of the scams that are related to vehicle accidents as well as examine accidents that involve uninsured motorists.