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How to avoid becoming the victim of a traffic jam crash

You might worry about suffering injuries in a car crash while you're stuck in a traffic jam. After all, you and the drivers around you are barely moving. However, traffic jams can cause drivers to become distracted and even doze off.

Rear-end collisions, for example, can occur in stop-and-go traffic when a driver fails to notice that the person in front of them has slowed down or stopped. These can lead to injuries like whiplash, which can be painful by itself and exacerbate other physical problems (particularly involving the back, neck and head) that a person already has.

While you can't control how other drivers behave in a traffic jam, you can make smart decisions that help reduce your risk of becoming the victim of a crash in heavy traffic. First, check the traffic conditions well in advance of your drive so that you can allow extra time if there's heavy traffic or use an alternate route. There are plenty of traffic apps and websites that can give you up-to-the-minute traffic conditions.

If you find yourself in heavy traffic:

  • Follow the three-second rule to stay a safe distance behind the person in front of you.
  • Look farther ahead to see what other cars are doing. If you see them slow down or stop, prepare to do the same.
  • Try to avoid changing lanes. If you need to, be sure to put your turn signal on in plenty of time. Before you change lanes, look behind you, to the side and in your blind spots. Don't just check your mirrors.
  • Avoid distractions. Don't use this time to make phone calls. That can leave you unprepared to react to sudden changes.
  • Don't drive aggressively. If traffic seems to clear for a moment, it's tempting to make up for lost time by going faster. You may be unable to stop when traffic clogs up again. Further, if you have to hit the brakes suddenly, the driver behind you might not be able to do the same.

If you're injured in a rear-end crash, you may not realize immediately how badly hurt you are. Symptoms can take time to appear. It's best to see a doctor after being involved in any crash. Once you know the full extent of your injuries, you can better determine what kind of compensation you need to seek from the driver determined to be at fault.

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