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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Seatbelt injuries 

I'm seeing criticism of New Jersey governor Jon Corizine following his car accident that maybe he wasn't wearing a seatbelt.
Well, maybe he was wearing a belt and maybe not, but his injuries actually are consistent with what one would get in a car accident even with a seat belt or from the seat belt itself - see here, and here.
We have this idea that seatbelts prevent injury -- well, not completely. They prevent catastrophic, deadly injuries, but when your body is hurtling forward at 50 km per hour and hits the seat belt, your bones are going to break and that's all there is to it. Better your ribs hit the seatbelt than your head hits the windshield.
When I was in a car accident in February of 2006, a driver came through a red light and hit my right front fender when I was going through an intersection at about 40 or 50 km per hour. I was driving, so hanging onto the wheel did help to prevent some bouncing around, but I still had a mild concussion, and ended up with five or six rib fractures due to the seatbelt, my chest felt crushed due to the shoulder harness, and my shoulder and chest and pelvis were deeply bruised. (My car did not have an airbag.)
Reading up on this on the net, I found that these are all typical seat belt injuries.
Also, my knee hit the dash with enough force to tear the ligaments, damage the nerves, and give me a plateau fracture of the tibia. This is actually such a common injury in a car accident that this kind of knee injury is called a dashboard injury. If my knee had hit the dashboard with any greater force, or if my dashboard had been shaped differently, perhaps my femur would have broken too, like Corazine's did -- again, this is not an uncommon injury in a relatively high-energy car accident. My other foot was also pretty bruised when it whapped the underside of the dash, too.
All in all, it took me more than six months to recover, and my knee will never be the same.

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