Driving can be dangerous. The National Safety Council estimates show that there are over 10 million car accidents in the United States every year. In California alone, there where over 500,000 vehicle accidents in 2013 involving fatalities, injuries and property damage or some combination thereof. Interestingly, the vast majority of these accidents were due to driver error. A survey of on-scene accident information conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that 94% of all car accidents nationwide could be attributed to some form of driver error. All other causes, such as weather or vehicle failure, accounted for less than 6% of car accidents.
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the more common causes of car accidents and what you can do to prevent them. By knowing how to avoid the situations and behaviors that routinely cause car crashes, you can lower the odds that you and those you love will be involved in an accident that can result in injury and even death.
Not paying attention to road and traffic conditions is the number one cause of all car accidents in the United States. Despite receiving a large amount of attention in the media, auto accidents caused by driver inattention continue to rise every year.
When you’re operating a motor vehicle, you must pay attention to the conditions around you at all times. Avoid checking messages, eating, grooming or any other activity in the car that takes your eyes off the road. A car traveling 60 mph will travel 88 feet every second. In the three or four seconds that it takes you to check your phone, your car will travel 200 to 300 feet effectively blind. If traffic conditions suddenly change during that short period of time, you will find yourself with insufficient time to react to those changed conditions. The result will be an accident that can injure or kill you and your passengers.
Think about it this way. Statistics show that a large percentage of the drivers around you are not paying sufficient attention to the road. Given that fact, do you really want to put your life and the lives of your passengers in those driver’s hands by not paying close attention to the traffic conditions around you?
Exceeding the posted speed limit is the second most common cause of all car accidents. This is not surprising. It’s simple physics. The faster the speed of your car, the more ground it covers in a given amount of time. Reaction times to critical situations are measured in seconds. Therefore, the farther that your car travels per second, the shorter the amount of time you have to react to a dangerous situation. At some point, it literally becomes physically impossible to take corrective action to avoid an accident.
Make it a rule to never speed. It may feel like you’re getting to your destination more quickly, but all you’re really doing is increasing the odds that you’ll be involved in a vehicle accident.
It goes without saying that drinking and driving don’t mix. The statistics bear this out. Upwards of 300,000 people drive drunk every day. Yet, despite there being nearly 110 million incidents of drunk driving every year, only about 1.5 million people are arrested for drunk driving.
All of this impaired driving causes some serious safety problems. The Department of Transportation estimates that every two minutes someone is injured in an alcohol related car accident. Furthermore, 27 people a day die in car crashes where alcohol was a factor. In the end, it simply makes no sense to drink and drive.
So, if you have been drinking don’t get behind the wheel. Have a friend who hasn’t been drinking drive you home. Take a cab or public transportation. Do anything but put your life and the lives of everyone on the road with you at risk of serious injury or death.
Reckless driving is a catch-all phrase to describe different driving behaviors that are all obviously unsafe. It includes changing lanes without looking, failing to keep a proper interval with the vehicle in front of you and other actions that are specifically in violation of traffic laws and driving safety standards.
It’s important to note that a lot of reckless driving occurs as a result of aggression. Drivers in traffic can and do become aggressive, using their vehicles as an avenue to vent frustration. Aggressive driving does nothing to change traffic conditions and the behaviors of other drivers that trigger frustration. What it does do is increase the chances that you will harm yourself and others as a result of being involved in an accident caused by your recklessness.
Rain, snow, ice and fog all cause traffic conditions to deteriorate. Visibility becomes restricted. Road surfaces become slick. It becomes harder to maintain adequate control over your vehicle. When weather conditions change for the worse, your driving skills need to change for the better. In bad weather, you need to slow your speed down and allow for a greater stopping distance when you brake. Doing things like allowing yourself more time to get to your destination and keeping a greater interval distance between you and the vehicle in front of you also makes sense. You cannot change the weather when you drive, but you can take the steps necessary to make your driving safer given the conditions that your encounter.
Driving when you need to sleep can be as dangerous as driving after you’ve been drinking. Your vision is just as impaired, so is your ability to react. These effects are compounded when you’re tired and driving at night. If you’re driving and you need to sleep, you’re only making things worse for yourself by trying to keep your eyes open and keep driving. Take a lesson from professional over the road drivers. When you feel sleepy, pull over and get a couple of hours rest. You won’t make it to your destination as planned, but you will increase the odds that you’ll make it there in one piece.