Whiplash Injuries Prevention

by allan46 on February 25, 2011

Whiplash is the single largest injury claimed for in road traffic accidents every year. Each day, 1,200 claims are submitted in the UK for whiplash injuries caused through low speed, rear impact collisions on the road. The UK has the dubious title of the ‘Whiplash capital of Europe’, with claims costing the NHS and the insurance professions millions of pounds every year. But a study in the US may have an answer – maths.

According to US researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, rear end collisions could be avoided by inserting a simple algorithm into your car’s computer, informing a driver that the car in front is going more slowly than the driver may think. The research was a combination of engineering and psychology in a groundbreaking study of driver’s perception of speed. They studied the interaction of the leading driver and the trailing driver in rear end collision situations and found that the trailing driver is incapable of calculating the true speed of the vehicle in front unless the difference was at least eight to 10 miles an hour.

From this analysis, scientists developed an ‘early warning system’ algorithm based on the rear end collision scenario and the braking behaviour of drivers. The algorithm is designed to minimise the chances of becoming involved in a rear end collision and possibly causing whiplash injuries to the leading driver.

The new algorithm could be installed into cars computers to mimic driver’s behaviour and take over in the event of a following vehicle approaching a leading vehicle too quickly. It takes an element of control away from the driver, and this technology is already being explored by some high-end manufacturers such as Mercedes, but has yet to filter down into mid-range priced cars. The research at Georgia may speed up the incorporation of this type of algorithm into a wider range of cars, reducing the number of rear end collisions every day on the roads and consequently, the number of whiplash injuries.

The algorithm incorporates into its equations the driver’s driving style and braking behaviour and ‘learns’ from this information, effectively mimicking the driver’s actions. However, because of the nature of mathematical algorithms, it can also incorporate pre-programmed safety protocols into its calculations, alerting a driver to the proximity and speed of a vehicle in front, avoiding the possibility of collisions. Mercedes have taken this one step further, activating an emergency braking procedure into their algorithms, stopping the car before impact. The research in Georgia doesn’t quite go this far, but concentrates on alerting the driver of the speed of the vehicle in front rather than its proximity, leaving the braking in control of the driver rather than the car’s computer.

Modern technology is advancing at an astonishing rate, and these new safety algorithms could play an important part in reducing the number of rear end collisions on the roads. Whiplash is by far the most common injury cited by accident claims and costs everyone more through increased premiums and drains the resources of the NHS every year. The Georgia research shows how seriously the scientific community is taking this problem, and by applying maths and psychology into their calculations, is gaining new insight into the dynamics of driver reactions and rear end collisions.

Read more about Accident Claims Scotland?
Nick Jervis is a Solicitor (non-practising) and consultant to Edinburgh Solicitor and Personal Injury Specialist Stan Moffat of Moffat and Co.

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