Between commuting, running errands, and shuffling the kids around, many of us spend so much time in our cars that they're almost a second home. Though we don't think of them as one of the top injury risks in our lives, car accidents are too common to ignore. This doesn't mean we should just stop driving—as if we even could—but it does suggest we should pay a bit more attention to ourselves when we're behind the wheel.
You've probably been told to “drive safe!” when leaving a social event or preparing for a road trip. Most of us plan to follow this advice—after all, an accident can derail everything and leave you with high medical and repair bills. Unfortunately, our intentions don't always win out, especially if we're in the habit of bending rules. If you're guilty of doing things that would make a driver's ed teacher frown, take a moment today to reset your intentions.
Tracking Common Causes of Car Accidents.
Each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gathers and analyzes accident reports from across the U.S. The agency uses this data to spot trends. While accident causation data are less precise than other measures—as drivers may not admit to certain actions, and many accidents have more than one cause—some behaviors emerge as common issues. The 2018 data—the most recent accident statistics reported in detail—breaks down the top factors in the year's 51,490 traffic deaths.
Cause #5: Distracted Driving
Any time a driver takes a phone call, eats their lunch in the car, tries to keep kids in the back seat in control, or pays attention to anything that's not the road in front of them, they increase their likelihood of causing an accident. Distraction may be:
- Visual (taking one's eyes off the road)
- Manual (taking one's hands of the wheel)
- Cognitive (taking one's mind off driving)
It's hard to stay completely focused while driving due to all the demands most of us face on our time and attention, but it's no exaggeration to say doing so could save your life. Distraction was a factor in 5.4% of the accidents covered in the NHTSA report.
Cause #4: Failure to Yield Right of Way
Right of way is one of the basics of driving, so everyone on the road should know the rules. There's no good excuse for failing to follow them. However, enough drivers broke right of way laws for it to be a factor in 7% of fatal deaths.
It's possible this cause stacks with others, like distraction or fatigue, which is another reason to make sure you're fit to be on the road before you start your car. At intersections with traffic signals and those without, an extra second to make sure an oncoming driver will yield can prevent an accident.
Cause #3: Failure to Stay in the Proper Lane
This seems like another obvious no-no, but it was a factor in 7.2% of fatal accidents, according to the NHTSA report. Straying from the proper lane is another mistake that's likely to be linked with distraction or fatigue. It's common for your car to drift when you're not looking forward—or when someone falls asleep behind the wheel.
Many modern vehicles come with lane assist technology, which can do things like:
- Warn drivers who are drifting out of their lane
- Steer a car back into the proper lane if it drifts over lane markings
- Automatically keep a vehicle centered in its lane
If your car has these capabilities, make sure they are active and you know how they work. When it comes time to buy a new vehicle, they're a safety feature that's worth paying for.
Cause #2: Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol, Drugs, or Medication
With all the anti-drunk driving campaigns states have launched over the years, it's a shame to see this factor so high on the list. Impaired drivers were found to be responsible for 10.1% of roadway fatalities.
We all know to appoint a designated driver before we go out or call an Uber, Lyft, or taxi rather than driving home drunk. What you may not have considered is the danger posed by medications. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can have side effects like fatigue and dizziness that can interfere with driving safely. Check your medication packaging or search for its side effects online if you haven't considered whether it might affect your driving.
Cause #1: Driving Too Fast for Conditions or in Excess of Posted Limit
It's no surprise that speeding tops the list, given how commonly we all see it. If you're running late, we know how tempting it is to press down on the gas…but doing so caused 16.7% of accidents in the NHTSA report. In many cases, speeding doesn't even make much of a difference, especially if the speed limit along your route is already relatively high. It's all risk and no reward.
The other reason to follow speed limits is that they're set for a reason. Higher speeds mean less reaction time and a longer stopping distance. Road design is often based on the speed limit, and cars handle differently at 90 mph than they do at 60 mph. We could continue to list statistics about the dangers of speeding, but you've probably heard them all. The takeaway we care about is: Don't do it.
What If Someone Else Causes a Car Accident?
The worst thing about unsafe driving is that it risks other people's safety. Driving defensively is a skill most of us learn at the beginning of our training, and it's still one of the most effective ways to keep yourself safe on the road.
If you do get in a car accident caused by someone else, don't panic: Call a car accident attorney. Most personal injury firms take vehicle accident cases, and many attorneys at them have significant experience helping accident victims make the most of their insurance claims. The process can be complex, but with a good lawyer on your side, you won't have to worry about it.
Car accidents may be a fact of life, but we don't want them to be a factor in yours. The next time you get behind the wheel, take a moment to reflect on this article—and drive safe!
Call Karns & Kerrison at (888) 281-3100 for a free car accident consultation. We serve clients throughout Rhode Island.