Factors Often Involved in Motor Vehicle Accidents
According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more than 6 million car crashes in the United States every year—an average of about one per minute. Approximately 38,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents annually, and someone requires hospitalization in more than 25% of all auto wrecks. What are the common causes of car accidents? What measures can motorists take to minimize the risk of a car crash?
Common Causes of Car Accidents—Driver Error
Most motor vehicle wrecks happen because of the negligence or wrongful acts of drivers. The driver actions that most often contribute to causing a crash include:
- Distracted driving—Statistics continually show that more accidents are caused by distracted drivers than by any other factor. Distracted driving has been a problem almost since the invention of the automobile, with drivers taking their eyes off the road to look at a map, adjust the radio, or talk to a passenger. With the advent and explosion of handheld devices, though, distracted driving has become far more commonplace, with drivers sending or responding to text messages while behind the wheel, surfing the internet, or opening an app. Other actions that can take a driver’s attention from the roadway are eating, drinking, grooming, applying makeup, and even reading a book.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol—Drugs and alcohol are scientifically proven to dull the senses and slow your reaction time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly a third of all annual traffic fatalities in America involve a drunk driver.
- Violation of traffic laws—One of the primary purposes of most traffic laws is the ultimate safety of those on the road. Common violations of traffic regulations are speeding, reckless driving, failure to stop at a traffic light or sign, illegal turns, illegal lane changes, and general failure to use appropriate caution.
- Aggressive driving—Aggressive driving can take many forms, including tailgating, illegally passing other vehicles, and cutting off other drivers.
Other Common Causes of Car Accidents
Aside from driver error, a number of other factors can lead to motor vehicle wrecks:
- Poor weather conditions—Rain, ice, or snow on the roads can compromise a driver’s ability to brake, turn, or otherwise control a vehicle. Other weather phenomena, such as fog, heavy rain, or blizzard, can limit visibility, increasing the risk of a collision.
- Roadway defects—Potholes, loose gravel or sand, and uneven lanes can cause a driver to lose control. In addition, poorly designed roads may be susceptible to flooding or may involve hairpin turns that lead to spinouts or other loss of control. Defective, broken, or missing traffic signs or signals also put drivers at risk.
- Dangerous or defective vehicle components—A motor vehicle is a complex piece of machinery—when one component isn’t working properly, it can be dangerous. Faulty brakes or steering, defective turn signals or brake lights, substandard tires, and even careless vehicle design can lead to an accident.
What Can Motorists Do to Reduce the Number and Severity of Car Crashes?
There are a number of simple measures drivers can take to reduce the risk of accident:
- Keep your eyes on the road—You should have only one focus while driving: the roadway.
- Drive defensively—You can’t control what other drivers do, but you can be prepared to take evasive action, if necessary.
- Stay home, if possible, when the weather is poor.
- Maintain your vehicle—Make certain your car is in good working order.
- Don’t drink and drive—Have a designated driver or simply choose not to drink when you leave home.
- Obey the traffic laws.