Watch Your Back for Rear-End Collisions

Realistically, there is not much you can do if you are on the receiving end of a rear-end traffic accident. Few people keep a constant watch on their rear-view mirror to look for threats – pretty much everybody focuses their attention on what is ahead of them – and even if you see a car bearing down on you from behind, you rarely can tell if the person actually is going to hit your vehicle before stopping. Even if you know that to be the case, as often as not you have nowhere to go to get out of the way anyway. Most rear-end accidents happen when your vehicle is stopped and the driver of the vehicle behind you fails to notice in time.

Rear-end Accidents Happen More Than Any Other Collision

Rear-end crashes are the most frequent type of traffic accident, accounting for nearly one-third of all collisions on the roadways. Other sources claim that 40% of the 6 million or so traffic accidents in the United States annually are rear-end collisions. Either number is a significant percentage, especially if you are in the car being struck from behind. Occupants of the front vehicle in a rear-end accident suffer the most injuries. This is largely because the impact is unexpected for the occupants of the vehicle being hit from behind and they have no time to evade or prepare. Further, airbags are not designed to deploy in rear-end collisions and rarely do unless the car being rear-ended is forced into a vehicle in front of it by the impact. In contrast, the airbags in the vehicle behind deploy as designed. Common injuries among occupants of the vehicle struck from behind include face, head spinal cord, and neck injuries, as well as whiplash.

There are approximately 1,700 people killed and another 500,000 injured each year in rear-end accidents. More than 85% of those accidents happen because the driver of the vehicle that collides with a vehicle in front of it is not paying attention or is distracted. While driver inattention is by far the leading cause of rear-end accidents, it is by no means the only one. Other causes of rear-end traffic accidents include:

  • Aggressive driving, including tailgating, speeding, cutting off another vehicle, stopping suddenly, or braking for another vehicle cutting in front of yours
  • Distracted driving from causes such as talking on a cell phone or texting, eating, adjusting settings for the radio or sound system, climate control system, or navigation system, as well as talking with other occupants of the vehicle or rubbernecking when passing an accident
  • Weather, including snow, icy roads, or standing water on the road
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving while fatigued, which can lead to drowsiness, actually falling asleep behind the wheel, slowed reactions, or inattention, all of which can result in rear-end collisions

Any of these factors could result in a rear-end accident. There is not much you can do to avoid getting rear-ended, but you can take measures to avoid being on the delivering end of a rear-end accident.

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