This is a guest post by Sandy Landsford of carinsurance.org.uk.
A car accident can be devastating to anyone involved in one, both directly and indirectly. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, auto accidents cost about $200 billion each year in terms of damage and related injuries. One person is killed in a car accident even 12 minutes in the United States. A person is injured in a car accident every 10 seconds. More than 2 million people are taken to the emergency room each year due to a motor vehicle accident. Given these stats, it is easy to understand why it is important to do everything to avoid a car accident and be as prepared as possible when a car accident occurs. Here’s a ranking of the five most common causes of a car accident.
1. DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 12,000 people are killed in car accidents involving a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For the most part, a first time DUI offense is charged as a misdemeanor. However, if someone is severely injured or dies, a felony charge may be involved. DUI laws vary by state, but generally even one DUI can wreck havoc with your driver’s license and result in substantial fines and penalties. If you’re too intoxicated to drink, it is best to take a cab or call someone to take you home safely. Many cities have programs that offer an intoxicated driver a free taxi ride home. Additionally, many bars and establishments that serve alcohol have a policy to cut off customers who appear visibly intoxicated.
2. Distracted Drivers
According to the American Automobile Association, anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of all car accidents is due to distracted drivers. The legal definition of distracted driving varies by state, but generally includes anything that takes your concentration off the road – even for just a few seconds. Distracted driving can include taking your hands off the wheel, shifting your eyes from the road or not concentrating while you’re driving. The advent of smart phones and text messaging has elevated distracted driving to the second most common cause of car accidents in the United States. Just a decade ago, it didn’t even rank in the top five on most lists. Talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving is banned in 11 states plus the District of Columbia, as of 2012. Text messaging while driving is banned for all drivers in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
About a third of all fatal car accidents can be attributed to speeding, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Nearly a thousand Americans are killed each year in motor vehicles accidents where speed is a factor. Many states use traffic cameras in an attempt to reduce speeding, along with traditional methods such as speed bumps and speed traps. According to AAA, some ways to reduce speeding include using cruise control since it maintains your current speed, getting into the habit of checking your speedometer, driving slightly under the posted speed limit and purchasing a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. According to the U.S. DOT, speeding is a triple threat because it: increases the odds of crashing, increases the severity of a crash due to other conditions and reduces your reflex time when faced with an obstacle.
4. Driver Fatigue
According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 100,000 car accidents each year can be attributed to drowsy drivers. A recent study by a university in Taiwan found that driving for 80 minutes without a break increases driver fatigue. Our bodies are programmed to stay awake in natural sunlight and to prepare for a rest when it gets dark. One study suggests that the hours of 2am through 6am are when driver fatigue is most likely to occur. You can’t always control when you have to drive, but you can take some precautions to remain as alert as possible. If you’re planning on driving to your vacation spot, for example, consider driving only during daylight hours to take advantage of the natural light and increased alertness. If you’re going on a long trip, consider sharing driving duties. Finally, if you feel too tired to drive, either pull over, take public transportation or just get some rest.
5. Driving During Adverse Weather
Stats for this one are kind of sketchy, but driving during dangerous weather conditions is consistently ranked among the leading causes of car accidents. Heavy rain and snow or fog can dramatically reduce visibility and create slick road conditions. This makes it very easy to lose control of your vehicle. Even if you manage to avoid slips and slides, all it takes is one car ahead of you to set off a chain reaction. It is easy to convince yourself that the weather warnings don’t apply to your area or that you are a careful driver and nothing will happen. It is best to ere on the side of caution and avoids driving when the weather is bad. If conditions change while you are driving, either slow down or find a place to pull over until conditions return to normal. Many newer vehicles have safety features that help with stability control when driving under difficult conditions.
You can’t avoid every driver distraction or other common causes of auto accidents, but you can do your best by becoming a more alert driver and doing your best to avoid certain driving conditions or situations where a car accident is more likely to occur. Switching to a newer car does more than just boost your fuel efficiency and reduce your carbon footprint. Many new cars have features designed to help reduce the chances of an accident. The best thing you can do as a driver, is to be make common sense decisions when you drive and pass this piece of advice onto a friend.
This post was contributed by a guest writer. If you’d like to guest post for Naturally Earth Friendly please check out our Become An Author page for details on how YOU can share your tips with our readers.