Choosing the Safest Car: Exploring Key Features for Injury Prevention

Choosing the Safest Car: Exploring Key Features for Injury

Video Transcript

0:00:08 - Shane Smith
Hey, Shane Smith here with Mind Matters: Navigating Head Injuries and Concussions. I'm here with John Mobley from the concussion and brain injury group here at Shane Smith Law, and, John, we're gonna talk about basically how to pick out a car, the safest car for yourself, right?

0:00:22 - John Mobley
That's right. So we wanted to kind of focus today's chat Shane on what sort of vehicles and what features that people can keep a lookout for when they're picking their vehicle, to keep both them and their family members safe and to try and reduce and minimize injuries to the greatest extent possible.

0:00:47 - Shane Smith
Now I know, years ago my mom used to always look at consumer reports and whatever that said the safest car was that's it. But I know we're going to talk not just about cars but also features inside of the cars, right? Absolutely, yes. And is there a clear winner?

0:00:55 - John Mobley
We work sometimes with some outside referral attorneys and, in some cases, products liabilities attorneys, and one of the major brands that they've said has been just far and away the best from a safety feature standpoint throughout the years is Volvo. Ah, the little car brands I know.

0:01:14 - Shane Smith
I say that just because that's what my mother used to drive and she always harped on Volvo over and over and, to be honest, they were never my favorite car, so I was hoping you were going to sell me something else.

0:01:26 - John Mobley
Yeah, unfortunately that's the one. I too inherited a very old Volvo from my parents with the same thing, they wanted to keep us safe back in the day.

0:01:33 - Shane Smith
Yeah, and I just never loved the body style of that car compared to my little BMW or my little sports car, which I'm sure is not as safe as the Volvo.

0:01:50 - John Mobley
Nowadays we have a lot more data and information available, available for people making that decision. You mentioned consumer reports. Still a great one, because they factor a lot of some of these organizations that we're going to talk about a little bit later on into their uh, their, their safety top pick features. So a lot more information is out there now, because it truly does span the entire spectrum. One car is not created equal to another car brand when it comes to safety, and sometimes it's even hard to navigate because certain cars within a company may be safer than other models that the company makes.

0:02:22 - Shane Smith
And even similar style cars, this one can just be much safer than the other one, even within a company? Right. Great. So what's our first topic? And we're gonna talk about features, right?

0:02:32 - John Mobley
Yeah, absolutely. We've come a long way in the past few decades, and even beyond that, with adding safety features to cars that really help protect occupants and reduce the level of their injuries that they sustain. Because when we have cars that are traveling 30, 40, 50 miles per hour, and you have sudden impacts where you go from 40 miles an hour to zero miles per hour very fast, it exerts an incredible amount of energy and damages onto the bodies of the people inside those cars. And that's why we see our clients sustain concussions, brain injuries, just all sorts of things, whiplash injuries, things that really impact and hurt people when they're involved in these accidents. So one of the safety features that we see having a huge improvement in more recent models is just the glass that's used. It used to be a type of glass that would basically spider web and shoot shards everywhere.

0:03:35 - Shane Smith
I know I remember those days, I mean, and glass would be everywhere inside of a car.

0:03:41 - John Mobley
It just really compounds the injuries. These days, it's more of a laminate that's used. The glass is actually sandwiched in between some laminate. What it does is, when impacts occur to the glass, instead of breaking into a million pieces, it actually keeps all the glass together, protecting some of the occupants. Also, the material that the glass is made out of, actually, when like a head or a body part impacts it, it actually has better results in terms of injuries.

0:04:02 - Shane Smith
The glass itself is safer in the sense that it cushions it a little bit, I guess, and it keeps all the glass together, so you have less of those fragments coming in and cutting people and--

0:04:24 - John Mobley
That's absolutely right. And, and that's kind of one of the big things that we've seen advancements in, just to protect people in motor vehicle accidents.

0:04:25 - Shane Smith
Is it all the glass inside the car, all the windows, or is it just like the front windshield, or is it sides and back too?

0:04:31 - John Mobley
So for this specific type of glass it's mainly the front windshield. Okay. Some of like the side window glasses, they may have it, but I would imagine the majority do not. They're gonna break normally in the way that glass used to break.

0:04:46 - Shane Smith
Okay. After the glass, so we want this particular type of glass, which is pretty common now in windshields, right?

0:04:51 - John Mobley
Correct. Without a doubt, one of the biggest safety features added to protect people in high speed, low speed, moderate speed accidents is the introduction of the seat belt. Seat belt usage around the 1980s was about 17%. In the 2000s, it's up to 75%. So campaigns and the word has helped. Wearing your seatbelt does in fact save your life.

0:05:15 - Shane Smith
That and the dinging in the car right, ding, ding, ding, until you buckle up.

0:05:17 - John Mobley
Having that annoying alarm go off is, I know it reminds me, and I certainly--

0:05:23 - Shane Smith
Definitely does, and they've done a good job of programming our children too, because I remember when mine were younger, if they heard the ding, it was like, dad, you got to buckle up you know.

0:05:32 - John Mobley
And another thing as well is that in years past, just from a law standpoint, we've seen a lot of states introduce criminal statutes, traffic citation statutes, that basically say if you're not wearing a seatbelt we're gonna write you a ticket. It used to be a secondary offense and now it's even moved to even a primary offense where you can be pulled over for literally not having your seatbelt on, and definitely given a ticket if you are not buckling up your minors or some of your underage occupants.

0:06:00 - Shane Smith
Now, on a side note, I know that the seatbelts is actually an area where a lot of people don't inspect it after an accident, and it's something our clients definitely should. You should make sure the seatbelt's functioning. I know that there's some of the pendulums on the internal parts of it, in a high-speed collision those sometimes need to be replaced, even if they appear to be functioning 100%, because they're just made for one hit kind of deal. One severe hit, I guess, is what I would say.

0:06:27 - John Mobley
Shane, that's a great point that I didn't even include here. But you're absolutely right. After an accident like that, they should absolutely be inspected for things like fraying, any sort of malfunction at the lever or base point, but definitely the fraying too, because whenever you affect the structural integrity of the seat belt, it may not perform as well the next accident that you get in.

0:06:51 - Shane Smith
Right, exactly. So we got glass, we got seat belts. What's the next safety feature?

0:06:53 - John Mobley
So the big one is the head restraint. A lot of people know about some of the glass features and the seatbelt features. Something a lot of people don't understand is the head restraint is very, very, very important when it comes to what we focus on a lot here, which is brain injuries and whiplash injuries. Not only do you need to have, pick kind of the right head restraint, but you need to arrange it so that it's optimized for your body type.

0:07:24 - Shane Smith
And when you say head restraint, that's the pillow almost that goes right above the main seat.

0:07:29 - John Mobley
That's yes, that's right. Okay. And the reason that we see there's a lot of injuries with the head restraint or improper head restraint, is that, you know, number one: we still don't have, you know, adequate performance requirements, so manufacturers can make just about you know anything and it doesn't necessarily have to stop the head during rear impact.

0:07:51 - Shane Smith
Really? Okay. So there's no standard. I would have never guessed that.

0:07:55 - John Mobley
Number two: you know most of the restraints do not have vertical locking devices, which allows the restraint to collapse during contact with the head, which is very important as well. Of course the manufacturers just haven't done a great job educating the public on proper use. We always hear about, put your seatbelt on, I don't know if I've ever seen a commercial saying make sure your headrest is correctly aligned to your body.

0:08:22 - Shane Smith
And I know that's a huge thing, the alignment or the proper placement of the headrest, it's just never done. You know, they just get into a car and the headrest is in the wrong position, or they're, somebody was taller than them, and so it doesn't feel right. In the accident, rather than preventing injury, it almost exacerbates it or makes it worse, because it's there.

0:08:39 - John Mobley
If two different people are using like a driver's seat in a shared family car and one person is 6'2" and the other person is 5'4", it's going to need to be adjusted. You know, we'll have an image here that we can share with the viewers that basically shows what proper alignment looks like, and it should be where the seat lines up with your head and if it, if you deviate or change from that, then you actually will worsen your outcomes in a rear-end accident. And what that means is, more likelihood that you sustain a brain injury, higher likelihood you have cervical trauma to your neck, because it's because the head does not hit the seat correctly and at a different timing from the rest of your body, and that's how these injuries occur.

0:09:25 - Shane Smith
Also when adjusting it, I know there's stuff on YouTube nowadays that can show you how to adjust it. I also know a lot of police departments and fire departments will, if you come by and ask them to do a free inspection kind of deal, will adjust it correctly per I guess what the manufacturers, or what generally is known to uh, to position them correctly.

0:09:45 - John Mobley
Absolutely. Firefighter stations are a great resource. I know in a lot of communities they also will install child seats correctly for you as well, if you swing by.

0:09:54 - Shane Smith
I was gonna say, I laughed just because I remember the first time I tried to put a child seat in, it was not as easy as the book made it out to be, is what I would say. What about airbags?

0:10:03 - John Mobley
Yeah, so airbags are another big one. Obviously, some of the worst accidents we see in this firm and I've personally seen throughout my career is when we have clients that are involved in catastrophic accidents and they're in vintage cars or very old cars, vehicles that don't have those airbag safety features. Airbags are crucial to preventing terrible outcomes in high speed accidents. We've seen beautiful vintage cars just get crumpled like an accordion and no airbag deployment, and the injuries in those cases are always so, so, so bad. So it's definitely something you want to factor into your decision making process as a family, especially if you have toddlers, young children or you just want to keep everyone safe. You may want that, you know, '79 chevy corvette, but you may be better suited to get the, you know, the minivan. It's not going to be as cool but it will likely, if made you know later, like in the 2010s, have much more updated safety features to protect you in an accident.

0:11:13 - Shane Smith
And I've seen airbags even evolve over time, obviously like everything else. But I mean, in the beginning it's just a driver's airbag, then it was a driver's si-- you know, you and a passenger, and now they've got side impact and door airbags and tons and tons of airbags in cars to keep everybody as safe as possible.

0:11:30 - John Mobley
That's so true, the amount of airbags has quadrupled. Uh, you know, I've even seen airbags that shoot up in between people in back seats. What happens is that backseat passengers, when you get jostled and thrown around at 40, 50 miles per hour, you end up striking other occupants in your vehicle. And that's why it's also important going back to seat belts that everyone in the car is buckled up, because in a high-speed accident, if one person's unbuckled, they essentially become a missile traveling around the car, right, yeah, and it can injure and hurt other people, and a lot of people don't understand that. So not only do you want to keep yourself safe, you want to buckle up, you also want to make sure everyone else buckles up.

0:12:14 - Shane Smith
And that also goes for objects you might put in the back. I'm not saying ever you need to tie everything down, but I mean, if you have very dangerous objects back there, something to consider, do you have one of those throw up dividers or something else? Because I remember an accident where a Jeep rolled over and a shovel came over the seats into the front windshield.

0:12:23 - John Mobley
My driver's ed teacher back when I was 16 years old always liked to tell a story of a buddy of his who kept a Kleenex box in the back kind of window area of his car. Got into an accident, and the Kleenex box hit him in the back of the head at about 40 miles per hour. Oh wow! Don't leave stuff in the back of your seat folks. So that's just something to keep in mind as well.

0:12:50 - Shane Smith
Any other safety features we ought to be on the lookout for, or particular cars?

0:12:54 - John Mobley
Those really are the top ones in terms of safety. Now, if you want to dive deeper into how to find out about all the safety features, and from a trusted source, we recommend reaching out to or There are actual services that will rank these cars, rank some of the safety features. They actually conduct tests and grade the safety features so that you know us as just average consumers don't have to try and figure out all this stuff on our own. They'll rank them and then you can make the best possible decision.

0:13:30 - Shane Smith
And we'll make sure to put those in a link down below as well for any of our listeners who want to go check it out themselves.

0:13:37 - John Mobley
Basically, that is the full rundown of the the main safety features. Uh, we just wanted to kind of explain the, the one that a lot of people don't understand the head restraint. The head restraint I think is the key. Uh, if we can give the viewers one walk away, it's to, uh, make sure you're on top of your head restraint placement and to make sure you have some of those features we discussed.

0:14:00 - Shane Smith
And just to round up, John, the uh, the bottom of your head-- where does the bottom of the headrest need to be?

0:14:02 - John Mobley
It needs to be right at about the mid-level of your head.

0:14:05 - Shane Smith
Good deal. So check out your cars, folks. Make sure you do that, that's what I'll say. And if you've got car seats, have the firemen put it in, they do a great job. John, now one of the things we talk about is assuming you've done everything, assuming you've got the seatbelt buckled, you know, your car has airbags, your head restraint is is done correctly. You've got that situation where you're stopped and you know, oh no, there's gonna be a wreck. Either you see the guy or gal and you just know they're gonna go through that light or go through the stop sign. Or, worst case scenario, you're driving down on and the guy drifts into your lane and it's coming at you head on. What do you do? So you can't avoid the wreck, right? I mean, obviously, if you can, obviously drive out of the way, but if you can't, what do you do?

0:14:47 - John Mobley
Right, so we can do everything to prepare and be safe drivers, but sometimes we just can't control when someone is not paying attention, especially now that everyone's texting on their phones and, just you know, come up and barrel into the back of your car. But what you can do to mitigate your damages, both from a head injury standpoint and a neck whiplash standpoint, is, first, you want to look straight ahead. All right. Reason for this is that we see that whenever people are looking to the right, to the left, in some sort of twisted you know, contorted body position, we almost always see that the injuries are worse.

0:15:23 - Shane Smith
I've definitely seen that. I've talked to chiropractors and I've talked to orthopedists, who've all confirmed that, and they also have explained to me why sometimes what seems like a minor impact or not that big a deal, if they were looking to the right or adjusting the music or talking to their passenger that's why they're hurt so bad, even though on its face it looks like a minor accident, because the neck's not made to bend that way.

0:15:47 - John Mobley
That's right. The kind of the thought process there is that when you're, you know, twisting or extending your body out in an unnatural position, it's kind of putting it in a stress point and any sort of additional energy, like a rear end, is going to make the injury much worse. The second thing that you can do is basically place your hands flat against the wheel. Don't grip it, because this can result in shoulder injuries. And also there's a second type of whiplash called wrist whiplash that we see too, and a lot of times it's because people are just bracing too hard and unnaturally, exactly, on the wheel and what happens is that if you are too stiff and just gripping that wheel with a death grip, all that energy, once it goes forward, is getting transferred either to your elbow or to your shoulder and it's going to cause those extremity injuries.

0:16:42 - Shane Smith
And shoulders are delicate, is what I would say. We see a lot of shoulder injuries and sometimes those are teeny tiny muscles and difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat and difficult to repair. Like you say, as you're gripping it, there's nowhere for that force to go right, because your arms are tight and the shoulder is sort of the weakest spot there.

0:17:02 - John Mobley
Right, it's the end point for that energy. So unfortunately it would take the brunt of that energy transfer when you get rear-ended.

0:17:07 - Shane Smith
Don't grip the wheel, but what? Just put your hands on it?

0:17:11 - John Mobley
Yes, like a loose grip, where you're not either flexed or gripping it too hard, you're just kind of holding onto the wheel for stability.

0:17:19 - Shane Smith
Okay. But definitely don't lock the arms out. Correct. And you also don't want to lock the legs out. You want to, loose is probably the wrong word, but certainly have bends in them to absorb that shock.

0:17:30 - John Mobley
That's correct. And speaking of legs, this one's a bit of a harder one, but it's kind of the third thing that's recommended is that you put at least one of those feet on the brake. The reason is because when you get hit from behind at a high rate of speed, if that foot is not on the brake and then you either get concussed or knocked out and your car may be in drive when you're waiting for the light to turn green, your car could start moving. If there's two lanes and your last thing was you're waiting to take a left, so the wheels turn and you get hit and your foot's not on the brake, then you could be drifting into another lane and sustain potentially another impact from an oncoming car which, unfortunately, we see that a lot too in practice.

0:18:11 - Shane Smith
Definitely going to add complexity and increase your chance of being seriously injured in a second collision. All right, so we've got look straight ahead, loose grip with the hands, with some bend in the elbow, bend in the knees if you can, but with one foot on the brakes so that if something happens you're not drifting off into the middle of the road in another accident. So obviously this doesn't guarantee you won't be injured, but hopefully it will lessen your chances of being seriously injured.

0:18:37 - John Mobley
That's right, and that's the main goal. And you know, another one you can do is kind of be cognizant of where your head is. It's also recommended that you would put your head and back snug against the head restraint and your seat against the restraint, because when you're, you know, pressed against the seat, it's not additional movement going forward and back, and forces being exerted on your body. So that's something that can help people as well too.

0:19:02 - Shane Smith
To minimize some of that whiplash whipping of the head, I guess. Right. I think that's everything we've got to talk about today, John. Thanks for helping. I like the key points: fix your headrest, that's simple and easy. And if you're going to be in an accident, can't avoid it, try to be as loose as possible and looking straight ahead. That's correct. All right, for our subscribers: hit like and subscribe for more Mind Matters: Navigating Head Injuries and Concussions. And if you've got a question for John, Always remember if you're in pain, call Shane. 980-999-9999

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