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A Boeing jetliner crashed near the East Midlands airport in England in 1989. The crash occurred during an emergency landing, killing a full third of the passengers on board. Doctors who attended to the survivors of the crash, found those who had “braced” prior to the crash, were less likely to have brain trauma or concussions, regardless of where they sat on the plane. The “brace” position in an airplane is head bend forward, feet planted on the floor. Since 1967, the FAA has been studying the brace position, using crash dummies. There have been some adjustments made on the exact posture for those in an anticipated crash, however the basic principles have remained the same.Leaning forward in anticipation of a crash, places your head close to the back of the airline seat directly in front, significantly reducing the likelihood of “secondary impact,” which causes the head to snap forward, slamming into an unyielding surface. The theory has been tested in automobile accidents as well, although few passengers in a head-on car accident have the time to think about the oncoming impact, then brace against it. In one study, however, half of the simulated victims involved in head-on car collisions, who “braced” against the impact, suffered much fewer brain and chest injuries. The bracing position in an automobile, is head and body pressed firmly against the seat, with arms locked against the dash or steering wheel. If there is enough time for you to take this position before impact, it may help in an accident.
The Safest Crash Position is Dependent on the Type of AccidentObviously, the most protected crash position is dependent on the exact nature of the accident, as well as the vehicle’s design. Transport specialist, Dipan Bose, has studied emergency bracing positions via computer simulation. Bose notes it is very “directional,” and that “you have to know exactly which way the body will move,” which is much easier said than done in a car accident. Although urban legend says you should try to relax if you know an impact is coming (and point to the fact that those impaired by drugs or alcohol are often less severely injured in a crash), there are instances where bracing against an impending impact can significantly reduce the level of injury sustained in an auto accident. Further Reading: Is Drugged Driving as Dangerous as Drunk Driving?
How to Brace for a Rear-Impact Auto AccidentSo, if you look in your rearview mirror and see a vehicle barreling toward you, unlikely to stop, should you brace or relax your muscles? Research clearly shows those who have time to brace against an impact have less injury and better long-term outcomes. There are many muscles in the neck which can protect the nerves, discs and ligaments in your neck. When those muscles are relaxed, the nerves, discs and ligaments are forced to absorb a much larger percentage of the force, becoming damaged in the process. If you see you are about to be rear-ended, do the following:
- Brace your head against your vehicle’s headrest;
- Don’t lean forward, but look forward;
- Push your back squarely against the back of the seat;
- Push your food on the brake, and
- Tense up as though someone is about to punch you—with a 3,500 pound car.