DeAnn Owens
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How Witnessing a Near-Miss Accident Impacts Your Health

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fog lights driving in fog
Photo: llulila via Pixabay

Traveling on the highway at any time of the day can be a challenge for motorists. But rush-hour congestion and a wintry weather mix definitely intensifies the activity to an almost unbearable degree.

Everyone makes mistakes

With added safety risks like more cars on the road and bad weather, it’s not uncommon to see drivers make mistakes. And even if their mistakes don’t equal an actual impact, drivers and passengers who are involved in or even just witness a near miss accident can suffer from distress and anxiety.

I know my blood pressure spiked on a recent drive on a busy, congested highway. As the front seat passenger, I had a perfect view of a utility van sliding across the lane markers of their lane. It inched closer to the bed of a semi-trailer truck. Luckily, the van driver realized their mistake and was able to adjust their lane position away from the semi before it was too late.

Health consequences

I was already on edge due to the spitting rain and cloudy conditions that were reducing visibility for everyone on the road. After seeing that, I just wanted to get off the road. And I wasn’t even the driver of any vehicle! I’m sure the other drivers’ hearts were racing, too.

Even though an accident didn’t actually occur, I felt a serious level of stress and anxiety. Of course, that was followed by a feeling of relief. It was an emotional roller coaster, but I tend to have big feelings. I had to wonder if I was just overreacting and leaning into my dramatic sensibilities.

Turns out, my feelings are valid.

According to PTSD UK, witnessing a close call on the highway or on any road can have serious consequences.

“In fact, it’s important to understand that witnessing an incident that results in death or a life-changing injury — or even the potential for those things — can also lead to PTSD” (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Seek help when necessary

Luckily, I am not fretting over the near-miss accident anymore, but it was a scary reminder of how dangerous driving really is.

If you or a loved one need support after witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event, PTSD UK recommends seeking help from a medical professional.