Even though big car companies have made significant advances in automotive safety and design in the last decade. U.S. vehicle fatalities hardly declined in 2017. 40,000 for the second year in a row, up 5.6% from 2015 as reported by The National Safety Council. Driver error accounts for over 25% of all traffic accidents. Nobody plans on getting into an auto accident, that’s why it’s called an “accident.” It’s unfortunate that so many end with life changing results. Traffic seems to grow denser every year and the number of accidents is on the rise. Here are some familiar reasons for car accidents, most of which can be avoided with a bit of common sense.
1) Not Knowing Your Vehicle
No matter what you are driving, you need to have total control. Most people purchase a vehicle based on what they like about it. Whether it’s the look, the functionality or the extra features. You base your decision to buy it, on a 2 or 3-mile test drive and you take it home. Being unfamiliar with the dimensions of the vehicle, how fast it accelerates, or how quick it can stop, can all lead to an out of control accident. This is especially true for new or young drivers. Driver’s Ed does not teach real world situations, they teach enough to get you to pass a simple road test.
2) Distracted Driving
When you are driving, whatever you’re driving, your only job is to safely operate your vehicle. It’s ironic that while texting and driving (loosely enforced) is against the law, the nine-inch touch screen on your dashboard isn’t considered distracting, or illegal. The average text can take your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. Finding a station on satellite radio can take even longer. Even with controls built in to the steering wheel of newer model cars to handle your calls, texts and music choices are still taking your focus away from where it should be, ON THE ROAD! Distracted driving continues to be the number one leading cause of car accidents in America.
Young drivers develop the “Need for Speed” at an earlier age than previous generations did. With the success of high speed action movies and video games, first time drivers think standing on the gas pedal is how your supposed to really drive. We’ve all seen the results on the news. More times than not an innocent motorist gets the worst of it. Some of the cars built now aren’t helping to promote safe driving, not really. Sure, it’s great to have a set of wheels that is as fast as it looks, but do you need a car that does 160 mph from the factory? Unless you have access to a race track, see where we’re going with this?
4) Aggressive Driving
Everybody on the road is trying to get somewhere. Some feel the need to get there really fast. You’ve all seen “that car” speeding, weaving in and out of cars, not signaling, tailgating and braking way too hard at the last second. And you’re thinking about the time you rolled through a stop sign and the police pulled you over like they were in the trunk, so where are they now? Whether its an angry driver or just a lead foot, aggressive driving has a high potential for collateral damage. Reflex reactions from the drivers who are trying to avoid an aggressive driver can veer off into another vehicle because their attention is on the car that almost hit them or cut them off.
5) Left Turns or Trying to Beat a Yellow Light
Every driver at some point has done it, hit the gas on a yellow light to beat the red one. Sometimes however, you’re left with little choice. You’re approaching a light that’s been green awhile, as you get closer it turns yellow. You have plenty of room to stop but in your rear-view mirror the driver of the car behind you is focusing more on his smart phone than the road. So rather than risk an almost certain rear-end accident, you nail it to make through. Many serious head on and T-bone collisions happen because someone tried to make the green light, or arrow and could not properly judge the distance of the intersection versus oncoming traffic. Most left turn arrows average 5-15 seconds, from yellow to red is 2-3 seconds.
6) Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Not properly maintaining your vehicle can cause a wide range of problems. Even something as simple as not topping off the windshield washer fluid can leave you all but blind in harsh weather. You should keep a maintenance schedule for your car and check fluids regularly. Anything that forces you to pull over on a busy road or highway can put you and anyone stopping to help you at risk, especially during high volume traffic periods. Checking your tires is crucial to road safety. It doesn’t matter how expensive your car is, where the rubber meets the road is where it counts. Take a penny and place it in your tire tread. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. You should also have your brakes checked and maintained regularly.
7) Confusing Road Construction
Misleading road signs, cones shutting down lanes with no one working, or road crews working with no flagman to direct traffic. We’ve all been there. It’s confusing, it’s aggravating and it’s adding to the mounting frustration that no matter how hard you pound on the steering wheel, you’re not getting to work on time. The risk for accidents rises greatly in these work zones. Even if they are clearly marked with signs and cones, some people just refuse to learn how to merge. Whether or not you are “that driver” refusing to merge properly can result in serious vehicle damage. Traffic accidents are caused by those who are afraid to merge and just stop waiting to be let in, and those who refuse to let anyone in. Which leads into the next reason for accidents.
8) Road Rage
Road rage goes well beyond aggressive driving. Unless you’re from a very small town, or don’t drive, we’ve all witnessed road rage, been a victim of it, or have been guilty of it. The reasons for road rage incidents are as varied as the results of it, which almost never end well. It doesn’t seem to take much these days. Accidents can happen from trying to avoid these angry people. However, if you’re the target of it your best option is to call the police. If you have a passenger with you, try to get the make, model, plate # and a description of the driver. Make sure you know where you are, so you can give the 911 dispatcher your exact location. The Road Rage Driver is a danger to you and everyone on the road.
9) People with No Confidence Behind the Wheel
Drivers with no confidence behind the wheel have a better chance of causing an accident than actually being in one. Even the conscientious driver doing the speed limit can cause problems if the flow of traffic is moving considerably faster. But there are some drivers you see on the road and you know they should not be behind the wheel of a car. It’s all to easy to get a drivers license today, to apply for a drivers permit in NYS you need to be able to identify some road signs. In Europe you have to attend six months of driving classes before you can drive a car. Its easy to blame the elderly, bad eye sight, medication, slow reflexes. The truth is some people are, and will always be, bad drivers.
10) Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of anything that impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle will land you in jail for at least a night and will definitely cost way more than the fun night you just had. If you’re lucky. Anyone who thinks they can drink and drive, shouldn’t be drinking or driving. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) over 10,000 people in the United States die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes every year—that’s one person every 50 minutes in 2016. If you include impairment from illegal drugs or misused prescription medicine, the number rises significantly. With the rise in popularity of prescription opiates and tranquilizers, more and more accidents are caused by drivers who have taken to the wheel before whatever they took fully “kicks in.”
11) Bad Weather
This winter was particularly brutal on the roads, there seemed to be a news story about chain collisions during every snow storm this season. Even with the best four wheel and all wheel drive vehicles all it takes is an 1/8 of an inch of water or ice to lose traction. During a winter storm, depending on the temperature, snow and ice can accumulate fast. Even if you have the best all terrain 4×4 ever built, driving fast on snow covered roads still isn’t a good idea, even if you know what you’re doing. Why? Because not everyone else on the road has that vehicle or those skills. More often than not it’s the over confident SUV owner you see sliding off the road or rear-ending another car because they believed the commercials enough to buy the car.
12) Tractor Trailers
The title of truck driver is one of the deadliest and most demanding in the United States. Truck drivers work long hours, driving great distance to deliver their loads. Sure, truck drivers are just people. There are good ones and bad ones. But not knowing how to drive around these big rigs can cause some serious accidents. A large truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds by law. Most passenger vehicles are about 3,000 – 4,000 pounds. A passenger vehicle weighing 4,000 pounds, traveling under ideal conditions at a speed of 65 miles per hour would take 316 feet to stop (nearly the length of a football field). In comparison, a fully loaded tractor-trailer weighing 80,000 pounds traveling under ideal conditions at a speed of 65 miles per hour will take 525 feet to stop (almost the length of two football fields).
13) New & Teen Drivers
Inexperience behind the wheel coupled with misconceptions about driving is what cause most accidents involving new and or teenaged drivers. Not knowing how to react behind the wheel can be fatal. Parents, it’s very freeing when your teen begins driving. No more family taxicab. But, before you let your teen driver loose on the roads, you need to be confident they have a solid grasp of what they’re doing. Driver’s Education is a good start and helps on your car insurance, but practice makes perfect. Some newer model cars have (parental controls) the ability to restrict speed and radio volume when your teenager is driving. Coupled with the ability to track their location this should keep your teen driver calm behind the wheel.
14) Poor Road Conditions
Poor road conditions can get the best of even the most cautious drivers. Objects in the road can cause you to lose control trying to avoid whatever it is. Natural road hazards such as rain, snow and fog can all create limited visibility. Rain and snow can cause loss of traction even in cars equipped with ABS. Even if the ABS in your car stops you in time, doesn’t mean the car behind you can. Other road hazards like debris, pot holes, cracks, missing signs and especially Red-Light Safety Cameras. With the implementation of these ticket generating cameras, rear end accidents went up over 24%. It’s hard to judge the depth of a pothole when it’s full of water, hitting one can bend a rim or blow out a tire. Jerking your car out of the way to avoid one at the last second can result in much worse.
15) Not Being Aware of Your Surroundings
Whether it’s being distracted by the phone or the radio, having something on your mind or only focusing on the road ahead, many drivers are not aware of what is around them. Countless police and insurance agents have heard drivers say “Man! That car came out of nowhere!”. No, it didn’t! They just didn’t see it. Spend some time adjusting your car’s mirrors. Your side mirrors should be set so you can just see the sides of your car and level the rear-view mirror, so you can see behind you to the horizon. Don’t just drive! Especially in heavy traffic you need to watch the cars as far around you as you can in your well-adjusted mirrors. You need to be able to anticipate their actions. Not everyone signals. Just remember, they haven’t made a car yet that makes a better driver. Be aware and be safe.