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Dr. Rachel BanksAug 21, 2015 9:55:00 AM7 min read

Why do Accidents Happen in Slow Motion?

Maybe it's happened to you.

You were driving your car on a street that was still slick from the day's rainfall. 

You turn a corner, and your rear tires lose their grip and skid away. 

At that moment, though, when you knew that you had to steer against the skidding of your car, time slowed down. 

You probably remained very calm and waited for the right moment to turn the steering wheel. 

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Eventually, you moved the steering wheel, and your car was on track again. 

The event probably happens in a second or two, but it feels much longer.

If this has happened to you, you're not alone.

When patients come to Arrowhead Clinic for Back Pain After a Car Accident, many tell us of the feeling they experienced. 

They tell us it feels like the Car Accident Happened in Slow Motion!

As a result, many individuals in the Car Accident may think faster and act faster during these events.

Why do the individuals in the auto accident experience a different sense of time?

Why does time seem to slow down when accidents and other traumatic events occur? 

In the article below, we will explore that very question.

Related post: typical soft tissue injuries after a car accident.

Table of Contents

The Fight and Flight Response

An analysis of hundreds of reports after car accidents revealed that 71% of people recall that they happen in slow motion

They recalled the event's duration as much longer than it was, and what was happening during an accident seemed to slow down. 

Moreover, in these situations, people often find that they are thinking very quickly. 

Why would this happen? 

Many researchers believe that in a situation of "fight or flight," when it is vital for our survival to act very quickly, it helps if the outside world slows down. 

It then feels as if we have more time to decide what to do next and what moves to make. 

But, what really is happening is that the bodily processes are speeding up relative to the world outside, making us feel as if the outside world is slowing down. 

The arousal level of the body is heightened to its peak. Arousal means that the body and mind are in a physical and mental state of being highly awake and active. 

The mind is focused and we feel alert. 

This bodily situation increases the chance of survival when we have to defend ourselves or quickly run away from danger. 

Because the body and mind are in a mode of extreme speed, it seems like what is happening outside in the world then slows down. 

Because everything seems to slow down in the environment, we see and hear more details of what is happening, which leads to the feeling that the event lasts longer than it does.


Do car accidents really happen in slow motion?

It Comes From Our Ancestors

We have it easy compared to our ancestors. 

Our ancestors had to be ready to defend themselves at a moment's notice from several different threats, maybe all at once.

One possible explanation for the way we perceive time when we are in a car accident may lie with a neurological or psychological ability that our ancestors developed as an aid to survival. 

The ability to slow down our time perception increases our chances of surviving emergencies. 

It gives us more time to respond to the situation and prepare and position ourselves. 

In this sense, we could perhaps interpret the ability as an evolutionary adaptation. 


Time Slowing

Another possibility is that the "time-slowing" effect is caused by the increased number of impressions and perceptions of our surroundings that our minds absorb during these moments. 

It does seem to be the case that increased information-processing slows down our experience of time.

This explanation leads to the idea that the time-slowing effect is a "recollective" phenomenon, due to the increased number of memories created in those few seconds. 

Neuroscientists have studied this, claiming that time-slowing is a function of recollection, not perception. 

A richer encoding of memory may cause a salient event to appear, retrospectively, as though it lasted longer.

However, this seems to refute the subjective strength of the experiences. 

Anyone who has had one of these experiences where their perception of time was altered, there seems no doubt that the time expanding effect is happening in the present rather than a belated recollection effect. 


There are several things you should do after a car accident

What Should You Do After A Car Accident?

Once your sense of time is back to normal, there are a few things you should do immediately after your car accident.

Check for injuries

After the car accident, immediately determine whether anyone is injured. If so, call 911 to get an ambulance and police on the scene. Even if the incident was minor and everyone is cooperative, consider calling the police. That way you’ll have an official report to give to your insurance company.

Move to a safer area

If the vehicles involved are still operational, get them to the shoulder or off the main road. Make sure to pull completely off the road to avoid being hit by approaching vehicles. If you have flares or reflective emergency triangles, set them up to warn other cars. If there appears to be a danger of explosion, get everyone out of the way.

Call The Police

No matter what the other driver says, you need to call the police.

It's never a good idea to leave the scene without a police report because then it becomes your word against the other drivers.

Even though they may seem well-intentioned after the accident, their attitude might change when you try to submit a claim.

This could lead to you paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for an accident that wasn't your fault.

Take Down Driver and Witness Information

After you call the police, ask to see the driver's license of the other drivers involved in the crash so that you can take down their license numbers.

You should also get their name, address, phone number, insurance company, insurance policy number, and license plate number.

If the other driver doesn't own the vehicle involved, be sure to get the owner's info as well.

If there were any witnesses, try to get their names and contact info so that they can help clear up matters if one of the other drivers isn't completely honest about what really happened.

Take Pictures and Notes

Try to take as many pictures as you can after the accident along with jotting down a few notes.

Detailed notes and especially photos of the scene may help the court and insurance agencies decide who is responsible.

Get a good description of the vehicles involved. Take note of the year, make, model, and color, along with taking pictures.

Take photos of the scene — including the vehicles and any damage, the roads, any traffic signs, and the direction each vehicle was coming from.

Write down the date, time, and weather conditions.

You should do these things if the collision was major or minor.

Even after you've called the police, you still want to take as many pictures and notes as possible. There is no such thing as too much evidence.

Even if you think a crash was your fault, it might not be, that's why these notes and pictures are important.

You should never admit fault, and say as little as possible while you're at the scene of the accident.

Even though your accident happened in slow motion, the insurance companies will be quick to deny your claim if you admit fault.

Seek Medical Attention Right Away

Car accidents can feel like they happen in slow motion, and if you don't seek medical attention, your pain might feel like it is happening in slow motion as well.

Unfortunately, sometimes pain can make it feel like time slows down.

But if you've recently been in a car accident that happened in slow motion, things are probably happening much quicker for you now.

After the accident, life comes at you fast.

One of the first things you need to do after you experience a car accident is to seek medical care from a licensed chiropractor.

Chiropractors are experts at treating car accident injuries, and they will make sure you don't have any injuries that could cause you any pain or suffering if left untreated.


Contact The Arrowhead Clinic Today

If you were personally involved in an Auto Accident and are experiencing Back Pain, let the Arrowhead Clinic help you get the care you deserve.

The chiropractors with the Arrowhead Clinic have been serving their communities for nearly 40 years.

They have the skill and expertise to help you recover from your car accident injuries in no time.

They can also put you in contact with a personal injury attorney who can review your case

And the best news is that your treatment won't happen in slow motion.

To schedule your free consultation today, click the button below.





Dr. Rachel Banks

Dr. Rachel Banks graduated from Jackson State University receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Pre-medicine in 1990. She then moved on to attend Life University when she was called to the healing aspects of Chiropractic care, she graduated in 1997 with a doctorate in chiropractic. She’s also a proud member of the Georgia Chiropractic Association. Dr. Banks joined the Arrowhead family in 2009 becoming the floater doctor in the Atlanta/Savannah/ Brunswick offices. Her belief and dedication to the field of chiropractic have made her an intricate part of Arrowhead Clinics. In 2016, she was asked to make a permanent move to Savannah taking over the Mall Clinic. Dr. Banks revamped the staff, implemented her own style of leadership and management and in 2018 her clinic won “The Most Goals Met” in 2017. Dr. Banks was born and raised in Atlanta and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority but enjoys living here in Savannah with her loveable furbaby - Lola.