According to crash data from the City of Chicago, there were more than 26,000 rear-end collisions in the city in 2019. The true number is likely higher, since many minor rear-end collisions are never reported. Of those reflected in the city’s database, more than 20,000 resulted in no injuries and both vehicles were driven away from the scene.
Rear end collisions can cause serious injuries so in this article we’re going to talk about the danger of these types of crashes.
Unfortunately, some rear-end collisions are quite serious. Nationwide, there are more than 2,000 fatal rear-end accidents each year. Here’s what you need to know about rear-end crashes, how to avoid them, and what to do if you’ve been injured in one.
What is a Rear-End Collision?
A rear-end collision is exactly what it sounds like: a traffic accident in which one vehicle hits the other from behind. In a rear-end crash, the front end of the following vehicle makes contact with the back end of the vehicle in front. Rear-end collisions can occur in moving traffic or when the front vehicle is standing still, and range from minor bumps that do no damage to cars or occupants to serious collisions that destroy vehicles and cause debilitating injury or death.
Why Do Rear-End Collisions Happen?
One of the leading causes of rear-end traffic accidents is distracted driving. Looking away from the road for the few seconds it takes to read a text, change a playlist or enter a location into your GPS is plenty of time to close the gap if the car in front of you brakes unexpectedly. Even at 30 miles per hour, a 5-second distraction is enough time for your car to travel 220 feet. To put that distance in context, it’s about 2/3 of an East-West city block in Chicago.
Other common causes include violations of other traffic laws and regulations, such as speeding, following too close, and failing to adapt speed to weather conditions.
Despite governmental and automobile manufacturer’s efforts to reduce the risk of rear-end collisions, they remain among the most common motor vehicle accidents. The percentage of traffic fatalities attributable to rear-end collisions has actually increased since the requirement that new cars be manufactured with a third, central brake like took effect in the mid-1980s. And, there’s some evidence that red light cameras have increased the risk of rear-end accidents, since they create an incentive for drivers to brake at the last minute to avoid a violation.
To protect against rear-end collisions on the road:
- Avoid distractions while you’re operating a vehicle
- Leave a safe buffer between you and the car in front of you
- Observe speed limits and any conditions that might make it necessary to reduce speed
- Keep an eye on traffic lights, other vehicles, and anything else that might cause a car in front of you to stop abruptly
- Make sure to maintain your brakes in good working order
- Make sure your brake lights are working and unobstructed, and try to avoid braking suddenly
- Keep an eye on your rear-view mirror so you can take evasive action if you’re at risk of being rear-ended
What Types of Rear-End Crashes are Most Dangerous?
The collisions most of us think about when we hear someone say they “got rear-ended” generally occur at low speeds, often with the rear vehicle already braking. Often, this type of accident does no damage to either the vehicles or their occupants. Some of the most dangerous types of rear-end collisions involve:
- One or both vehicles traveling at higher speeds, especially when a vehicle traveling at full speed rear ends a stationary vehicle
- One vehicle being much larger and heavier than the other, such as a rear-end collision involving a passenger car and a commercial truck, or a motorcycle and a passenger vehicle
Motorcyclists are especially vulnerable to rear-end collisions, whether they are the leading or following vehicle, because they are exposed in a way that passengers inside a vehicle are not. When a motorcycle is rear-ended, the rider may be thrown into the air before hitting the ground or another object. When a motorcyclist hits a larger vehicle from behind, the biker can be thrown into or over the car. Thus, motorcyclists may be killed or severely injured even in low-speed rear-end collisions.
Although occupants of passenger vehicles are better protected than motorcyclists, the risk is similarly increased when a smaller passenger car or truck is involved in a rear-end collision with a semi-truck or other large commercial vehicle.
The Dangers of Low-Speed Rear-End Crashes
Though high-speed and mixed-vehicle rear-end collisions are generally more dangerous than the more common low-speed collisions between passenger vehicles, any rear-end collision can cause injury. Rear end collisions can cause serious injuries including the most common injuries sustained in a rear-end collision – “whiplash.” The condition gets its name from the rapid back and forth motion of the spine that causes it—similar to the cracking of a whip.
Whiplash is often neglected because the symptoms often don’t show up for several hours, or even longer. A person involved in a seemingly-minor car accident may suffer whiplash, but not feel any pain or stiffness at the scene or shortly after the crash. It can also be difficult to tell the normal stiffness and soreness that comes after a jarring motion but resolves with rest and minor treatment from a more serious injury. Some signs of whiplash include:
- Neck pain
- Stiffness or limited range of motion in the neck
- Neck pain that worsens with movement
However, the Mayo Clinic warns that not all signs of whiplash involve pain or stiffness of the neck. Some other common symptoms that you might not readily connect to whiplash are:
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Shoulder pain
- Headaches, especially those starting at the base of the skull
If you’re experiencing pain or other symptoms after an accident, it is in your best interest to seek medical assessment as soon as possible. Some injuries can be seriously aggravated by normal day-to-day activities, or may worsen if not treated promptly.
Most Rear-End Accidents are Avoidable
With good vehicle maintenance, attentive driving, and respect for traffic safety laws, most rear-end collisions can be avoided. When another driver causes a rear-end collision by speeding, following too closely, texting while driving, or some other type of negligence, that driver is likely responsible for any damages you suffered as a result of the accident. If you’ve been injured in a rear-end accident because someone else was negligent, talk to an experienced Glenview car accident attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights.