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Top Causes of Car Accidents

Here is a short list of some of the most common causes of car accidents:

1. Distracted driving (see Stuart’s blog post about visual, manual, and cognitive distractions)

  • Texting (Pennsylvania’s law banning texting while driving came into effect early in March)
  • Radio/music accessories: i.e., iPods, MP3 players, CD players, tape decks, radios
  • Reading, checking e-mail, or eating are also fairly common and incredibly dangerous.
  • Using an interior  mirror; for instance, when applying makeup.
  • Paying too much attention to your passengers or being distracted by passengers.
  • “Rubber-necking,” or slowing down in traffic to inspect an accident scene or construction site, causing sudden stops or changes in speed that endanger everyone on the road.

2. Speeding

  • Disregarding posted speed limits.
  • Reckless speed in certain conditions (i.e., night-time, rain, snow, ice, etc.).
  • Speeding on different road types.

3. Drunk or intoxicated driving

  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving ability is impaired.  There is no one alive who “drives better after a few beers.” If you plan to drink, don’t drive. Car accidents involving drunk or otherwise intoxicated drivers are usually devastating– for everyone involved. Fatal accidents are hundreds of times more likely to occur (the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that a drunk driver is 385 times more likely to be in a fatal accident than a sober one) when drivers are drinking.

4. Reckless driving & racing

  • Reckless drivers do not take into account other motorists on the road. They may race, change lanes without signaling, and basically treat the road like their personal playgrounds. These drivers endanger not only themselves, but others.

5. Rain & water

  • Rainy conditions obscure vision.
  • Hydroplaning (see our article here: Watch Out for Water on the Road)
  • If your wipers are in bad shape, your visibility is shot. It’s important to remember to check your windshield wipers and replace the blades when necessary.  You can also save your wipers some wear and tear by leaving them up (off the windshield) in the winter.

6. Disobeying traffic signals

  • Running stop signs. Also, the “the rolling stop” is not considered stopping at a stop sign. Practice waiting a few seconds at a stop sign before proceeding. This will statistically reduce your chance of a collision with another driver approaching the intersection
  • Chasing yellow lights is incredibly dangerous. Do not attempt to “make” the light by accelerating. If you aren’t sure if you have enough time, do NOT try. Many accidents occur from these scenarios, whether someone has chased a light or has tried to speed through one.  It is just as important to give ample time to stop as it is to wait before crossing an intersection.
  • Failing to yield the right of way.

7. Teenage drivers

  • More easily distracted and more typically more reckless than older, more experienced drivers, teenagers should be educated that the myriad electronics are simply excessive and unsafe to have in the car. That applies to their passengers as well. When teaching teenagers to drive it is vital to stress the importance of focus while on the road.

8. Night driving

  • Light and distance perception are altered.
  • Be sure not to try to drive when you are tired.

9. Vehicle defects

  • Manufacturer faults– most notable are tire and brake failures. It is important to know your vehicle’s appropriate tire pressures and to maintain your brakes.

10. Unsafe road maneuvers

  • Sudden lane changes, or lane changes without signaling
  • Sporadic braking and uneven speed are incredibly dangerous on the road

11. Tailgating

  • Not leaving enough distance between cars to maneuver
  • Try to establish distance between yourself and the cars around you, this will allow for reckless drivers to avoid you and give everyone ample time to react to any sudden traffic pattern changes

12. Snow & ice

  • Slick surfaces like bridges are much more likely to be icy than roadways
  • Black ice
  • Un-plowed roads should be avoided or reported to the appropriate authority.  Snow on the road covers such hazards as water, rocks, and black ice.

13. Road rage

  • Frustration on the road can lead to reckless driving.
  • If necessary, pull over (where and when it is safe and appropriate) and take a moment to calm down.  Drive with a clear head to ensure your own safety and the safety of others.

14. Road defects

  • Changes in road gradients, slopes and surfaces require  more attentive driving.
  • In construction sites, lane shifts and other tactics are meant to keep drivers safe. When you are instructed by signage to “Stay IN Lane,” that usually means the pavement ahead is uneven and may cause you to lose traction or a safe driving line.

15. Tire blowouts

  • Incorrect tire pressure accounts for a large number of blowouts. Make sure your tires are riding at the appropriate pressure.
  • Unsafe road conditions from obstacles that are strewn around in the road can cause a blowout.

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