What Causes Car Accidents and How Do I Keep Myself Safe?

Automobile accidents occur more frequently than some might think. A report published by Esurance found that nearly 77 percent of drivers have reported being involved in at least one traffic-related accident in their lifetime. Additionally, some experts estimate that the average driver will file a car insurance claim once every 18 years.

“Many automobile accidents occur from preventable causes, such as distracted or intoxicated driving,” said Attorney Bennett Schiller of Schiller & Hamilton Law Firm. “Because of that, there are some common warning signs and best practices that drivers could use to reduce the likelihood of becoming involved in an automobile accident.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 6.7 million automobile accidents were reported in 2018. These accidents resulted in over 36,000 fatalities and nearly 3 million reported injuries. However, knowing common causes and safety tips related to car accidents could help keep drivers safe.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents in the United States. Distracted driving describes actions that take an individual’s attention away from driving, such as texting, calling, or focusing on a navigation system. The NHTSA estimates that distracted driving resulted in nearly 400,000 injuries in 2018. Drivers who take their attention away from the road could experience a decreased reaction time to other drivers or changes in driving conditions. A research article published in the National Academy of Sciences found that a distracted driver could be twice as likely to become involved in an automobile accident.

There are several actions that drivers could take to decrease the likelihood of becoming involved in a distracted driving accident. This includes proactive measures, such as turning off or silencing a phone. Similarly, a driver could set up a navigation system or other devices they may need prior to driving. To reduce becoming involved in an accident with a distracted driver, an individual could give more distance to a car that is drifting in a traffic lane or making sudden stops.

Intoxicated Driving

Drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol may also experience an increased risk of becoming involved in an accident. Intoxicated drivers may experience a decrease in reaction time, reduced coordination, and inhibited judgement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol-impaired traffic accidents resulted in over 10,000 traffic-related deaths in 2016, accounting for over a quarter of all traffic fatalities recorded that year. Similarly, the CDC reported that individuals using marijuana were nearly 25 percent more likely to become involved in a traffic-related accident.

There are several actions that drivers could take to reduce the prevalence of drug or alcohol-related accidents. This includes designating a sober driver before going to a restaurant or bar, refusing to get in a car with an intoxicated driver, and utilizing car sharing services such as Uber or Lyft. Additionally, drivers could look for common signs to detect and avoid intoxicated drivers. Intoxicated drivers may swerve within traffic lanes, frequently or unexpectedly stop, and respond slowly to traffic signals.

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving is another common cause of automobile accidents across the country. Aggressive driving includes actions or traffic offenses taken by an individual that endangers another person or property. This includes actions such as improperly following another vehicle, passing in prohibited areas, or failing to yield the right of way. A 2009 review of the NHTSA Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) found that aggressive driving contributed to over half of all fatal accidents that occurred between 2003 and 2007.

To prevent reckless or aggressive driving, the American Automobile Association (AAA), recommends that drivers obey traffic laws and avoid actions that could enrage other drivers. This includes driving too slow in a lane, cutting off another driver, or making aggressive hand gestures. Additionally, AAA recommends that drivers who may be prone to aggressive driving attend anger management or stress reduction classes.

Safe Driving Best Practices

In addition to being familiar with common causes of car accidents in the United States, there are several safe driving best practices that individuals could take to reduce the likelihood of becoming involved in an accident. Following all traffic laws, practicing defensive driving, and avoiding driving while fatigued could reduce the likelihood of a traffic-related accident occurring. Additionally, purchasing a car with additional safety features or installing them yourself could help prevent an automobile accident. This includes safety features such as hazard detection notifications, adaptive headlights, and driving assist cameras.