Car accidents happen, nowadays more often than in the past. About six million Americans are involved in car wrecks each year, and that number is on the rise. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more than 37,000 people died in car crashes in 2016, up 6 percent from 2015. That year coincidentally was the highest number of traffic deaths in eleven years.
Traffic accidents tend to have different causes and impacts depending on whether a man or a woman was behind the wheel. Men tend to speed and take risks more often and as a result, are involved in more accidents. That’s not to say women don’t cause crashes, it’s just not as severe.
There are all sorts of reasons why men and women get in car accidents, but there are, in fact, some reasons that are more common than others. With that in mind, here’s a look at the leading causes of car wrecks and some ways to avoid them.
Some of the Most Common Causes of Car Accidents
- Driving Distracted = Disaster
Long before texting was the preferred means of communications, driving while distracted was a huge problem and a big cause of car accidents. Texting kills, yet countless people still cruise down highways, drive down busy streets and zip past schools all the while texting. Consider this: According to the National Safety Council, using a cell phone while driving causes 1.6 million crashes each year, with texting to blame for close to 330,000 injuries each year from car accidents. A staggering one in four car accidents are caused by texting, surpassing drunk driving as a leading reason for accidents.
But it’s not just cell phone usage that is causing fatalities each year. People are eating and drinking, filling out documents, and putting on makeup while simultaneously operating a moving vehicle. Avoiding distracted driving wrecks is easy: Pay attention. Put on your makeup at traffic lights, wait to eat until you get to your destination and refrain from using your mobile device while your vehicle’s motor is running. Is your smartphone too tempting? Throw it in your trunk until you get to where you need to be.
- You Should Already Know About Drinking and Driving
Texting may be the leading cause of car accidents in America, but drunk driving is a close second and a very serious problem in this country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about one person every 50 minutes dies from a drunk driving car crash. That’s with drunk driving fatalities declining by a third over the past three decades. All told, drunk driving crashes are the causes of around 10,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
Nowadays, technology is playing a role in reducing that thanks to ride-hailing startups Uber and Lyft. Within seconds, users can call a ride home from the bar or the party instead of getting behind the wheel. Not the taxi or ride-hailing type? Designate a sober driver or go to locations you can walk to when drinking. Better yet, if you are going to be behind the driver’s wheel refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages for the night.
- Speeding Increases the Severity of Your Injuries
Speeding is to blame for close to 10,000 deaths each year and is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors to engage in. It endangers not only the driver and his or her passengers but everyone else on the road. It’s easy to speed when you’re late to work or to pick up the kids from school, but it’s too dangerous to risk it. Not to mention if you get pulled over by a police officer it will take more time to receive your ticket than if you followed the speed limit to begin with.
The impact of a speeding crash is also more severe. The faster you’re driving the harder the crash, which impacts the extent of the injury to the car’s passengers. Speeding doesn’t only mean blowing the posted speed limit, however. It can also be going too fast in inclement weather or on dark stretches of roads. To avoid this, slow down. Don’t go over the speed limit and, if the roads are slick or icy, slow down even more.
- Reckless Driving Is More Than Reckless
Similar to speeding, reckless driving—which encompasses everything from changing lanes to acting aggressively on the roads—can lead to car accidents and, in some cases, serious ones. Take changing lanes too quickly or without looking first, for starters. That can easily create a situation where you end up hitting the car in the lane next to you. Then there’s tailgating, in which a driver will ride close to the bumper of another driver to get them to speed up or move into another lane. There are no reasons to get that close to another car other than to be aggressive, which could not only cause an accident but prompt a pullover from the traffic police. Not to mention it could create a road rage situation.
Blowing through red lights is another reckless move on the part of drivers that can have serious repercussions. Same with blowing a stop sign: You may think you are in the clear, but history has proven that not stopping at red lights and stop signs can result in car accidents and again in some instances serious wrecks. While you may be tempted to blow the red light because you are late, doing so will put yourself and others on the road at risk not to mention it’s a traffic violation which comes with a fine.
- Bad Weather and Night Driving Cause Wrecks
Slick roads, icy pavements, and blinding fog not only makes it difficult to drive but it can result in major car wrecks. Each year you hear there’s a report of a multi-car pile-up due to inclement weather. While it can be impossible to avoid an accident on a slippery road you can minimize the risk by driving slowly, keeping a safe distance from other cars and using the proper equipment such as fog lights. If the visibility is too low, safely pulling over to the side until the storm passes may be the best option.
Car wrecks happen all the time and, while accidents are just that, there are driving behaviors that contribute to the number of crashes there are on the road. Texting and driving, drinking and driving, and engaging in reckless and aggressive behavior behind the wheel of a car are all recipes for a disaster.
Thankfully these behaviors can be controlled. Embracing safe driving where speeding, putting your mobile phone away, and otherwise avoiding unnecessary distractions on the road can go a long way towards reducing the likelihood that you will be involved in a life-threatening car accident.
Frank Giuliano is a car safety specialist and a regular contributor about safe driving and the behaviors drivers should enforce while behind the wheel.