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Car Accidents & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Our society is plagued by self-induced stress. Should this be something we pop pills for? Retrospectively, society accepts the unhealthiness of prior forms of medicated stress relief. It is generally accepted that smoking, for example, causes more problems than it relieves. Why do we swallow anti-anxiety medication so freely, without worrying about harmful side effects? These are powerful drugs that target chemicals in the brain. Medication should be the last resort in any anti-anxiety therapy. First, people who suffer anxiety should be proactive and try to resolve their concerns.

One example of a disorder that is suddenly widely prescribed is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD was first recognized in the USA as a serious problem among veterans returning from war. These men suffered cold sweats, panic attacks, nightmares, and compulsive behaviour as a result of near death experiences and the mental anguish of war. Some doctors worldwide are now claiming that this same level of shock is regularly induced in car accidents and cite numbers as high as 9% of car accident victims suffer ‘significant post-traumatic stress symptoms’.

A few years ago, a member of my family was in a serious car accident, and he experienced symptoms like PTSD. Dwelling on the accident would often upset him. He displayed obsessive behaviour by avoiding left turns wherever possible, even on deserted streets. He couldn’t manage this on all roads, but in George Town he was careful to take three right turns instead of making just one left. I have noticed when he rides in my car and I have to slam on my breaks, it causes him to spin around and look behind for the car that always seems to be on the verge of collision. Thankfully, he is getting a lot better now.

What he did to overcome these symptoms was to be proactive. He worked with the insurance companies to work out the claims. He took responsibility for the situation and did not let it take control of him. He confided to me that it did hurt to think about his car for months, but he didn’t obsess about it anymore. If you feel overwhelmed by a car accident experience and all of your real medical needs are met, you do not need a doctor. Talk to a lawyer about your situation and be proactive about filing papers and taking action. As he tells me all the time, “If you do this, no pills are required.”

According to the latest police statistics, there were 1,374 road accidents in Cayman last year, which included seven deaths. Although accidents increased by 4% in 2010 compared to 2009, the history of road traffic accidents in Cayman is high. In 2008, there were over 1,500 smashes and 1,430 in 2007.

Some 8,600 offences were recorded last year, down 23% on the 2009 figure of a staggering 11,180 tickets, but this was still a very high number.

Despite the continued campaigns by the RCIPS and the pleas from senior officers, the accident toll remains disproportionate for the size of the driving population and the miles of road, with many accidents being single vehicle crashes.

Nearly all of these car accident deaths can be avoided. David Baines, the RCIPS Commissioner said recently that the 300 collisions that took place in the last six-weeks or so of last year were a clear indication that much more needed to be done to educate drivers. “Drink Driving, the use of cell phones while driving, speed and appalling driving standards are endemic and all of these issues will be addressed in our planned National Road Safety Strategy” he said. “Too many lives have been lost on our roads.”

Reckless and drunk driving are serious offenses and the law treats a car, when it causes injuries, as a dangerous weapon. When victims are injured or killed in drunk driving accidents, the driver can be charged the same as if he or she had attacked their victims with any other weapon, like a gun. A drunk driver who kills a person can be sent to prison for murder. Such dangerous activities as drunk driving and racing are often treated casually by young people, but they do not understand the inherent risks associated with this behaviour. In the U.S every twelve minutes somebody dies in a car accident.

If you or somebody you love has been involved in a car accident, either as a driver or as a victim, it is important to seek legal counsel. Remember, if you are involved in an accident, never to apologise or accept responsibility without consulting a lawyer. Car crashes are scary, but apologising on the scene can fix the blame on you even if the collision is another driver’s fault. A lawyer can help you work out the necessary paperwork and protect you from accusations and court proceedings. Insurance companies have lawyers protecting their interests, shouldn’t you?

Finally, do not panic. As drivers become more aware of their responsibilities and car companies develop safer vehicles, the percentage of deaths in car crashes should steadily decline. When combined with safe, responsible driving techniques, such as acknowledging posted speed limits, wearing seatbelts, and going out with designated drivers, these new cars and advanced roadways promise a safer driving experience.





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