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Why drunk drivers often fare better in crashes than their victims

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Drunk Driving Accidents

Does it seem like nearly every time you hear or read about a collision involving a drunk driver, their injuries are less serious than those of the people in the vehicle(s) they hit? That, in fact, is often the case, and there’s a reason. It involves how the body reacts just prior to and during a crash.

In most cases, drivers and their passengers who are sober are aware of an impending crash, even if it’s only for a second before it occurs. A sober person’s natural reaction is to brace for impact. A driver will likely grab the steering wheel tightly to turn away from the other vehicle, slam on the brakes or hit the accelerator. They may reach over to try to shield the passenger sitting next to them or take any number of other split-second actions.

All the while, their body has tensed up and their muscles have constricted. That increases the chance of suffering serious injury. First responders and emergency room doctors explain that a collision typically involves three things: the vehicle striking an object, those inside hitting the interior of the vehicle and their internal organs moving inside their body. 

Understanding deceleration injuries

This often causes “deceleration injuries,” which occur when the body quickly decelerates as the vehicle it’s in comes to a sudden stop. Whiplash is one common example. However, some deceleration injuries can be serious enough to be fatal. One doctor explains that “trauma is all about the force of the mechanism of injury, and survival is directly related to reducing that force.”

If a person tenses up while this is occurring, there’s less chance for the body to absorb the energy of the impact. A drunk person is less likely to tense up, in part because they may not realize they’re about to crash. Even if they do, their reaction time is slowed. One firefighter/paramedic notes that “there’s a greater likelihood the intoxicated party will be less severely injured because they don’t anticipate the impact.”

There’s a lesson in that for everyone, but it’s easier said than done. As one nurse explains, “Try to relax as best as possible and don’t try to control your body, or grab for anything.”

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or worse due to a drunk or otherwise impaired driver, don’t agree to a settlement until you know the full extent of your expenses and losses. Getting experienced legal guidance as soon as possible can you get compensation and justice.