Cars & Trucks

Are You a Safe Driver? You May Be Surprised by the Answer

Many drivers think they are good drivers, but if they’re all right, where do all the bad ones come from? The truth is just about every “good” driver out there has plenty of room to develop safer habits. Some of the most important driving habits are often ignored, and consciously working on them could even help save lives.

Common Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents

In 2019 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle accidents killed more than 36,000 Americans and caused billions of dollars’ worth of property damage.

According to the NHTSA, the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States include:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Aggressive driving
  • Mechanical failures.

A Long Island car accident lawyer recently confirmed for us that the most common reasons its clients have had serious accidents were reckless actions tied to one of the mentioned five factors, such as failing to yield to the right-of-way (which could be tied to DUI, distracted driving, or aggressive driving), making unsafe lane changes (DUI, speeding, or aggressive driving), making illegal U-turns (aggressive driving or DUI), and more.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol remains one of the riskiest behaviors in which drivers engage. In 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drunk drivers accounted for 28% of traffic-related deaths in the United States and took the lives of nearly 11,000 Americans.

More than a million drivers were arrested for DUI in the same year, which is actually less than 1% of those who self-reportedly drove under the influence.

Distracted Driving

When you think of distracted driving, cellular phone use is likely the first thing that comes to mind, but all kinds of distractions cause drivers to cause a traffic collision. Examples include restless passengers (especially young children), stereos, beverages, and other types of mobile devices.

It is important for drivers to understand that even the briefest of distractions may be significant enough to put them in danger. It takes just two seconds of taking your eyes off the road for the risk of accidents to double.

According to the National Safety Council, most drivers (80%) think that using hands-free devices to communicate while on the road is safer than hand-held phones. However, dozens of studies show that hands-free devices can be as distracting as their hand-held counterparts.

Cell phone conversations can distract the driver regardless of the device used. According to new research, multitasking is a myth. The human brain cannot focus 100% on multiple tasks at once, just like you can’t read the newspaper and understand the message conveyed there while having a chat with a friend at the same time. The same goes for driving and having a conversation.

However, despite the growing evidence, states have so far only banned hand-held devices while car makers and marketers still peddle hands-free devices as safer alternatives. As a result, more than 70% of U.S. drivers use hands-free devices, like Bluetooth, while behind the wheel, citing safety reasons, and no one could really blame them.

Speeding

According to the NHTSA, over the last 20 years, speeding caused around one-third of deadly motor vehicle collisions. Speeding-related accidents cost the U.S. economy more than $40 billion every year.

There are many reasons people speed, but none of them are particularly good ones. Some drivers speed because they are running late. Others think there is no harm in it, while some speed just for fun.

According to Wallethub, Texas is currently the most permissive state to be pulled over when speeding, with Delaware being the strictest. Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, and New Mexico have the cheapest fines (around $100 per traffic violation), while Oregon has the heftiest maximum fines for speeding (around $6,250). Just 42% of U.S. states currently have speed cameras.

It is important to remember that speed has a strong correlation to accident severity, makes vehicle safety measures less effective, and greatly increases the stopping distance.

Aggressive Driving

Instances of aggressive driving and road rage have been on the rise in recent years. Over the last decade, fatal crashes involving aggressive driving behaviors have increased about 500%. In 2016 alone, there were 620 road rage incidents during which a gun was fired or brandished.

This is why it’s important to keep your cool if another driver offends you or if you somehow offend another driver. Road rage incidents can escalate quickly, so it’s important to prevent anything that could further a conflict on the road.

Road range is an umbrella term that refers to many actions and behaviors, including:

  • Speeding when traffic is congested
  • Cutting off other drivers
  • Not signaling
  • Tailgating
  • Not allowing other drivers to pass
  • Running red lights
  • Repeatedly ignoring traffic signs
  • Making obscene gestures at other drivers or needlessly honking.

Mechanical Failures

While not as prevalent as DUI or speeding, mechanical failures are definitely one of the most avoidable causes of car wrecks. Most of the time, mechanical failures that lead to accidents are brake- or tire-related. It is estimated that brake failures cause around 300,000 car accidents every year, or around 5% of all car crashes in the United States.

Weak tires are tied to 11,000 car crashes and 200 deaths every year. The most common causes of tire-related accidents are old treads and underinflation. A faulty tire could put your life at risk for multiple reasons, including:

  • Poor road grip
  • Blowouts
  • Inefficient braking
  • Fire hazards (especially for underinflated tires)
  • Uneven wheel alignment.

Brake failures and tire blowouts can come out of nowhere, so a safe driver should have these systems checked at least once per year, preferably every six months or so.

So, are you a safe driver?

Have you been driving while using a hand-held device lately? Have you intentionally cut off other drivers when running late? Have you skipped some of your vehicle safety inspections?

If the answer is yes to at least one of these questions, you might still have work to do in the safety department.

To keep both yourself and everyone else on the road safer, you could start by always driving sober, avoiding speeding, and practicing defensive driving. And take baby steps to allow new, safer habits to form.

As the greatest basketball player of all time once put it, “A champion is made, not born.”

About Contributor:

Are You a Safe Driver? You May Be Surprised by the AnswerEarly in his journalism career, Kerry L. Tucker had a revelation: there were not enough experts reporting on law issues. Legal matters are part of daily life. Yet, there seems to be a general aversion towards them. One of the main reasons for this is that the convoluted legal language is difficult for many people to follow. Therefore, he decided to change how the law is perceived by the public. Throughout his career, he met with many people who shared their personal stories with him. Some of these hit him harder. One of the cases that stayed with him and influenced his future career development was a car accident case involving a child. From then on, he decided to zero in on car accident lawsuits.

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