It seems whenever we turn on the news or open the newspaper, we hear about yet another car accident. While some high visibility accidents make the news, hundreds of accidents never see media coverage.
Those who travel on national roads and highways need to understand the most common causes of car accidents. This can help you gain a greater understanding of what is happening on every roadway in the state.
Proper driving can prevent most car collisions
Common sense—that can avoid most collisions. Whenever you look at overall car accident statistics, whether on a specific state-level or across the United States, you will see disturbing trends.
Let’s discuss the most common causes of car accidents:
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence
- Drowsy driving
- Speeding and other reckless behavior
- Disregarding traffic laws
Distracted driving accidents
Today, technology makes us immediately think that people distracted behind the wheel use their cell phones or other electronic devices. However, other distractions can cause a driver to be inattentive while operating a vehicle. Regardless of what is causing the distraction, distracted driving is dangerous.
Distractions can be visual, cognitive, or audible. Any one of these can pose a danger to others sharing the road. Drivers should always know how much room they need to stop their car. This requires a driver to pay attention to what is happening around them. If you are distracted by anything, this is not possible. A driver traveling 40 miles per hour will require as much room as half a football field to stop.
Some distractions, such as texting or using a cell phone, can encompass all three distractions. While many state laws now prohibit cell phone use that is not hands-free, this does not always stop an irresponsible driver from using a device while driving. This puts others at risk of being involved in a collision because the driver will likely have their hands off the steering wheel, not be watching the road, and paying more attention to the information on their electronic device than watching the road. These distractions are dangerous.
There are other forms of distracted driving. There is little doubt you have witnessed one or more of them when driving.
Some of these include:
- Eating while driving – while this may seem innocent enough, eating while driving can cause distractions. After all, a sandwich can drop onto your clothing, your snack crackers can fall between your feet, or you can spill a hot drink in your lap.
- Interacting with passengers – whether it is scolding a child in the back seat, trying to control an unruly pet, or carrying on an animated discussion with a passenger, this behavior can be dangerous to others on the roadway.
- Personal grooming – we have all seen this from time to time: A woman applying makeup or a gentleman combing his hair while operating a vehicle. These acts are reckless and can result in a collision.
- Auto adjustments – whether consciously or not, turning the radio volume up or down, adjusting the heat or air conditioning, or moving the seat. These types of activities mean someone is not paying as much attention to the roadway as they should be.
- Reaching inside the vehicle – whether someone is reaching for something they dropped, going into their glove box, or reaching into the back seat to retrieve something, their hands come off the steering wheel, and their attention splits between the determination to grab something and the road. This type of behavior causes accidents regularly.
- Additional distractions – whether someone drives for a long time and simply fails to pay attention, they let their attention drift to an unusual car or one with numerous bumper stickers, or they simply daydream, a serious accident can result.
None of these behaviors is acceptable because they take a driver’s concentration away from where it needs to be: Focused on the road and the traffic around them. A bit of common sense can prevent these actions. Instead, this causes more accidents than nearly any other behavior.
Operating while under the influence
Most people are aware of the dangers of drunk driving. Every year across the country, people lose their lives in drunk driving accidents. In a recent year, drunk driving caused more than 10,000 fatalities. What many people do not understand is that other substances can degrade safe driving ability.
Alcohol is not the only substance that causes driver impairment. Marijuana may be legal in some states, but driving high is dangerous to others on the roadway. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or the consumption of edibles can also cause driver impairment.
Drivers are impaired if the substance they have consumed causes:
- Slower reaction time – drivers need to know what goes on around them, but they also need to remain cognizant enough to react. When a driver’s reaction time is slower than normal, they may be unable to stop or slow down in time to prevent an accident.
- Coordination problems – drivers must control their vehicles.
- Cognitive diminishment – many substances, including marijuana and over-the-counter medications, can cause disorientation. Drivers should never operate under the influence of any substance that can endanger themselves and others.
Anyone who was in a roadway accident and believes careful driving on someone else’s part would have spared them pain and suffering needs to speak with a car accident lawyer as quickly as possible. Driving under the influence of legal and illegal substances puts everyone in jeopardy, and those who do so should be held accountable.
Driving while drowsy causes accidents
Long days at work, extended driving time, and lack of a good night’s sleep can contribute to drowsy driving. Unfortunately, it only takes a second for someone to drop off to sleep and cause a serious car accident. When a driver falls asleep or has trouble keeping their eyes open, can’t unfocus or react, and can seriously injure others.
People may think drowsy driving only happens at night. However, it can occur at any time. Remember, someone who has been driving for several hours can be drowsy, some people work off-hour shifts, meaning they can be coming home from work at unusual hours, and someone who has had a poor night’s sleep can be drowsy at any time. Even a trip to a shopping center or grocery store can be dangerous when someone has had insufficient amounts of sleep.
Never forget that drowsiness can also occur due to a medical condition, stress, or when drivers take cough medication. Drowsy driving is dangerous and can injure or kill others. Some believe that drowsy driving is as dangerous, or even more dangerous, than drunk driving.
Speeding and other reckless behavior
Some people are always in a hurry. Whether they planned poorly and did not leave their house on time to make an appointment or because of impatience, speeding is common everywhere.
Drivers get frustrated when someone drives slightly below or exactly at the speed limit, and they speed up to get around them. Too often, they allow their frustration to get the best of their common sense and start speeding at unsafe levels for current road conditions. Skidding accidents, head-on accidents, and rear-end collisions can often result from speeding.
Other reckless behavior can lead to accidents:
- Aggressive driving – speeding may be considered aggressive. However, other specific behaviors make aggressive driving potentially more dangerous than speeding. Drivers who drive erratically or change lanes constantly display signs of aggressive driving. Any one of these situations can cause a serious accident and the resulting injuries can be catastrophic for victims.
- Dangerous passing – while you may legally pass drivers on certain stretches of road, you must do so safely. Drivers who cross lanes to pass a car in front of them can cause serious head-on collisions.
- Tailgating – or playing chicken with another driver is another form of reckless driving. When you see a driver speed up and get right up to the bumper of another car and then back off, this is known as “playing chicken.” They hope to get a rise from the driver in the other vehicle. This type of behavior is hazardous and can result in severe injuries to anyone caught up in an accident because of this form of risky behavior.
Disregarding traffic signs and signals
We all expect drivers will obey speed limits, traffic signals, and road signs. Unfortunately, most of us have observed that this does not always happen. When there are traffic lights, too often, we see drivers who see a yellow caution sign, and rather than slow down, they speed up to avoid sitting at a red light. Unfortunately, this can mean they strike a pedestrian or cause a rear-end accident because the person in front of them did follow the rules of the road.
Other signs a driver may ignore:
- Incline ahead – some vehicles are not good at steep inclines. This is particularly true if there is a fully loaded truck in the line of traffic. Rather than decelerate slightly, a driver will maintain their speed and cause an accident because the traffic in front of them has slowed down.
- Yield right of way – some drivers do not understand what a yield sign means, or they simply disregard it. When someone is coming off an exit and completely ignores a yield sign, they put everyone in the normal flow of traffic in jeopardy.
- Rail crossings and school signs – both of these signs require drivers to slow down, but too often, negligent drivers ignore them, devastating other drivers and pedestrians.
In many cases, the root cause of an accident is that a driver simply did not use good common sense.
Every person is at risk when they share the road with someone who won’t follow the accepted rules of the road. If you lost a loved one because of another driver’s negligence, or you suffered an injury because the driver failed to exercise proper caution, seek the advice of a car accident attorney.
Remember, even when you are not at fault for an accident, dealing with insurance companies can be stressful. An attorney committed to protecting the interests of victims of auto accidents can help you understand your rights. An auto accident lawyer can also help you recover compensation for your financial losses.