What are the most common causes of car accidents, in the United States, and how do we avoid them? Read the list below and follow the suggestions on how to be better drivers, and together, we can make the roads in our country safer, minimizing injuries and even deaths! As you will see, each of the top five causes of car accidents, when following the rules of the road, are almost completely avoidable.
1. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is the number one cause of car accidents in the United States. The most common distraction, in these car accidents, is a smart phone. Even though the smart phone is the most common driving distraction, it is not the only driving distraction. Some other common distractions include screaming children, loose pets, putting on makeup, eating or drinking, while driving, changing the radio station, or a talkative passenger. Anything that takes your eyes off the road, mind off the drive, or hands off the steering wheel, is a potential driver distraction.
Most driver distractions are easy to avoid! The best way to avoid any known or unknown distraction is to have a plan. If you know what the distractions will be beforehand, cut them out or minimize them as much as possible. Do not look at your mobile device, while you are driving. If you will have children in the car, bring something to keep their attention, so they will not distract you. If you will have a pet in the car, make sure they are safely secured. Put the makeup on before you leave the house or when you get to your destination. Know the route to your destination, beforehand, so you do not have to take your eyes off the road to look at a map.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2019/20.pdf), in 2019, 248 people were killed in car accidents, in Texas, where speed was the cause. According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, (http://ohso.ok.gov/Websites/ohso/images/CrashBooks/2018/2018_S8_Speed.pdf), in 2018, 123 people were killed, in car accidents, in Oklahoma, where speed was the cause. A great deal of research goes in to determining safe speeds for the roads on which we drive. When we, as drivers, choose to ignore those posted speed limits, we are not only breaking the law, but we are also taking the lives of ourselves and the other drivers on the road, into our own hands.
How can we avoid speeding? Just DON'T do it! Follow the speed limit; follow the law. Use cruise control; it is there to help you avoid speeding! Make sure you stay focused and aware of all of your surroundings. When driving on the highway, especially for extended periods of time, it is very easy to lose site of your speed and creep up into those dangerous speeds. This is another good time to use your cruise control! One other tool, that might help you more than any, to avoid speeding, is to imagine if one of those 248 Texans or 123 Oklahomans, killed due to speed, was you, your wife, your child, your parent…whatever image you need to avoid speeding, use that.
3. Drunk Driving
Driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence is the third most common cause of car accidents in the United States. Each state has its own set of factors, to determine if a person is intoxicated. One of the factors that is identified, is the driver's blood alcohol content. In both Texas and Oklahoma, if a driver has a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, they are legally intoxicated; depending on the side of the driver's body and their rate of metabolism, they could reach legal intoxication after only 2 drinks. Officers also perform field sobriety tests, that examine the driver's ability to walk a straight line, walk heel to toe, and maintain balance. Other indications of intoxication include slurred speech, odor of alcohol on the body or breath, and blood shot eyes. Intoxication decreases your reaction time, comprehension, and concentration. Decreases in these three areas GREATLY increases the chances of causing a car accident.
How can drivers avoid driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence? It's simple, if you drink, don't drive! If you are going to have a night cap, make sure you do not need to get out of the house, after your drink. If you feel the need to go out and drink, tag along with a designated driver, call a ride share. Don't be a goober, call Uber! Driving while intoxicated is not only a common cause of car crashes, but it is also a common cause of arrests, jail time, even prison time, all valid reasons to not get behind the wheel after you have been drinking.
4. Reckless Driving
Reckless driving includes poor driving choices, like unsafe lane changes, swerving, driving under the speed limit, running stop signs and red lights, tailgating, and unsafe passing. I commuted for seven years from North Texas to Dallas and saw examples of reckless driving DAILY. Traffic can really bring the worst out in people. Lack of patience seems to be one of the most common causes of reckless driving, along with lack of consideration for the safety of other drivers on the road.
If you do not want to be a reckless driver, follow the rules of the road. Be considerate of your fellow drivers. Be patient with yourself and patient with others. Be aware of all vehicles around you, when making driving decisions. If you can, leave a little early for your intended destination, so that if you do run in to traffic or any unexpected delays, you can allow yourself to be patient and not feel rushed. Treat other drivers as you would like to be treated.
Rain is not anything that we can control. Slick roads can be very dangerous. Hydroplaning is a scary situation, that if they are not thinking clearly, due to shock or fear, drivers can respond improperly and lose total control of their vehicle. Another dangerous condition, with rain, is combination of oil on the road, with rain, creating an almost invisible danger. The water/oil combination can cause tires to lose traction and in turn, the driver to lose control of the vehicle. Heavy rains make it difficult, even with windshield wipers going at full force, for the driver to see, sometimes, even 2 feet in front of them.
How do we avoid car accidents caused by rain? Don't drive in the rain, if you can help it. Sometimes life requires us to drive in the rain and then, there are still precautions we can take to make those drives safer. Make sure all of your tires have good tread. Make sure your windshield wipers work properly. Make sure you are driving at a safe speed for the conditions; driving the posted speed limit in a heavy rain is rarely safe, for the conditions.
It is our responsibility to make sure we do not become one of the statistics. All of the common crash causes listed above, most of the time, can be avoided. When we get behind the wheel, as drivers, we are not only responsible for our safety, but also for the safety of those around us!