For most of us, getting behind the wheel is the riskiest thing we do all day. Auto accidents are one of the leading causes of deaths in the United States, but according to Forbes, the general public doesn't always recognize how dangerous driving can be. Because crashes are scattered throughout the country, happening in "ones and twos," many of us lose sight of how many accidents take place every single day: approximately 110 nationwide.
Locally, Missouri auto fatalities are on the rise for the first time since 2007, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol: there have been 375 deaths from auto accidents in the first six months of 2012, which means 62 more motorists died this year than during the first six months of 2011. The Springfield and Joplin areas are experiencing the highest increase in traffic fatalities with a 59% rise compared to 2011.
If you've ever been involved in a serious accident, you know the experience can be nightmarish. What's more, in addition to the physical consequences that accompany car crash injuries, research has shown that motorists may experience mental consequences as well. Traumatic accidents can cause symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although PTSD is most often associated with the horrors of combat, millions of Americans suffer from this mental disease, which can be brought on by a number of different causes: many Americans report PTSD symptoms after living through auto accidents, house fires and natural disasters.
Of course, it's natural to feel nervous, afraid and upset after an accident: most people do. It is good to have a healthy fear of the road, but too much fear can actually put a driver in danger. To help overcome feelings of anxiety about driving, start slow. Start by just sitting in the driver's seat and simply starting the engine. Then, step by step, try to work your way up to taking a short drive. As you become more comfortable behind the wheel, extend the length of your driving time. Remember to push yourself, but not too far. Take small steps. Over time, driving will become easier, and fear and panic will subside.
However, there's an important distinction between normal feelings of uneasiness and fear and PTSD symptoms. Familydoctor.org reports that "strong feelings that stay with a person for a long time and start to get in the way of everyday life are signs of [PTSD]." For most car accident victims, the symptoms subside as time passes, but those afflicted with PTSD experience fear and panic that seems overwhelming and never-ending.