For the average American, there’s a higher risk of dying in a car accident than in almost any other uncontrollable event. However, there are also plenty of ways to stay out of harm’s way by making smart and calculated decisions.
Car Accidents: The Data and Trends
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute (NHTSA), front impact collisions are the most common types of collisions nationwide with 2.8 million occurring each year. Rear impact collisions are the second most common (1.57 million), followed by left side-impact (608k), and right side-impact (555k).
The most common causes of these accidents include distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, reckless driving, inclement weather, running intersections, and poor vehicle maintenance. Should you find yourself in a car accident caused by one of these factors, you’ll want to hire a car accident attorney to sort through the details on your behalf. However, ideally, you’ll be able to avoid these situations to begin with.
5 Ways to Avoid Car Accidents
While you can’t always avoid accidents, there are certain factors that you can control. Here are several tips to help you reduce your risk:
- Lay Off the Gas
The NHTSA reports that car accident risk (and the risk of serious injury and fatalities) increases with speed. The faster a driver is going, the quicker their reaction speed must be. High speeds also exacerbate the impact of distractions.
Looking away for just one second at a speed of 85 miles per hour is a lot more serious than taking your eyes off the road for one second at a speed of 55 miles per hour. Not only that, but high speeds impact the severity of accidents when they do occur.
“Higher speed limits cancel out the benefits of vehicle safety improvements like airbags and improved structural designs,” says Dr. David Harkley, President of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. “The faster a driver is going before a crash, the less likely it is that they’ll be able to get down to a survivable speed even if they have a chance to brake before impact.”
The moral of the story? Slow down and pay attention to speed limits. Arriving at your destination two minutes earlier isn’t worth the increased risk of being involved in an accident.
- Remove Distractions
Nothing makes you more susceptible to being involved in a car accident quite like distractions. The most common distractions are texting while driving, talking on the phone while driving, eating while driving, and looking in the backseat while driving.
In terms of phone-related distractions, we recommend putting your phone on some sort of “Do Not Disturb” mode while driving. This will prevent you from receiving text messages and phone calls while you’re behind the wheel. (If you absolutely must take a call, be sure to use hands-free communication technology.)
- Avoid High-Risk Circumstances
There are certain road conditions and times of day that automatically translate to a higher risk of being involved in a car accident. While it’s not always possible to do so, try avoiding driving during the following situations:
- Nighttime (particularly between the hours of 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday).
- During and immediately after periods of rain, ice, or snow.
- During rush hour (usually between 7-9am and 5pm-6pm).
Again, you can’t always avoid driving during these conditions, but you should at least be cognizant of the increased risk during these periods.
- Keep Your Distance
To prevent rear-end collisions, always keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. The general rule of thumb is to stay at least three seconds behind the vehicle ahead of you. This means increasing the space as the speed increases. And if weather conditions are poor, a five-second differential is recommended.
- Be Defensive at Intersections
Did you know that car accidents are more likely to occur at intersections than at high speeds on the interstate? Most people assume the opposite is true, when in fact intersections pose the greatest risk and demand the most vigilance.
Practice defensive driving at intersections by always looking both ways when crossing. And if you’re the first vehicle in line at an intersection, count to three before accelerating. This lowers your risk of being hit by someone running a red light.
Stay Safe Behind the Wheel
As a driver, your biggest responsibility is to get from Point A to Point B safely. It’s not about arriving as quickly as possible or trying to “show up” other drivers on the road. As one recent highway safety campaign slogan said: Arrive alive! Let these tips guide you to becoming a safer driver so that you can do just that.