What You Can Do To Avoid Car Accidents
July 18th, 2013 | Car Accidents
Car accidents are an unfortunate part of the lives of many drivers. In 2011, Kentucky reported 721 traffic related fatalities on public roadways1. Additionally, there were 150,278 reported vehicle collisions throughout the state2. However, many accidents can be avoided by following common-sense practices. That important text message can wait to be answered. That e-mail will be waiting for you when you get back to the office. It is important that drivers educate themselves of the most common causes of car accidents if they are to avoid making the same mistakes that lead to so many needless injuries and deaths. Below are some of the most common causes of accidents, along with some helpful advice that will help you avoid becoming another statistic.
Driver distraction and inattention is the most common cause of car accidents. This is especially true in today’s technologically advanced world where text messages, e-mail, and the internet are readily available on smart phones that never leave our side. As recently as 2009, as many as 16% of all accidents which involved fatalities and/or injuries occurred as a result of driver distraction3. In 2011, 55,754 of the 150,278 vehicle collisions in the state of Kentucky were reported as being due to driver inattention or distraction4. Thus, driver distraction and inattention accounts for 37% of all traffic collisions in Kentucky.
While most distractions come in the form of electronic devices, other things are considered distractions as well. Eating that sloppy hamburger that drips ketchup on your lap, “rubber-necking” a recent accident scene, applying make-up, and dancing with your friends to a favorite song can all take your eyes away from the roadway for long enough to impair your reaction time. All of these are easily avoidable mistakes that can significantly reduce your chances of being involved in a motor vehicle collision. Play the odds and drive smart.
What can you do to prevent being a distracted driver? Use common sense. Do not attempt to text and drive. Not only is it illegal in the state of Kentucky, it can have life altering consequences for you and others on the roadway. That text message or email will be waiting for you when you get home or back to the office. Nothing is more important than your life or the life of others.
Most of us have experienced driver fatigue at some point in our lives. Pushing to get those last few miles done on a long trip or driving home after working a long shift are common examples. However, driving while exhausted or sleep-deprived is very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. The early hours of morning and middle of the afternoon are the peak times for fatigue accidents5. Fatigue related crashes are often severe because of the delayed reaction time of the fatigued driver. Symptoms of fatigue include: heavy eyelids, frequent yawning, irritability, varying vehicle speed, and misjudging lane clearance.
The NTSB concluded in a study that 52% of 107 single-vehicle accidents involving heavy trucks were fatigue-related; in nearly 18 per cent of the cases, the driver admitted to falling asleep. Summarizing the US Department of Transportation’s investigations into fatigue in the 1990s, the extent of fatigue-related fatal accidents is estimated to be around 30%. Research shows that driver fatigue is a significant factor in approximately 20% of commercial road transport crashes and over 50% of long haul drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel.
What can you do to avoid driver fatigue? The biggest mistake people make is not stopping when they feel themselves getting tired. Don’t try to squeeze out that last stretch of a long trip just because you are close to home. Instead, try to find a well-lit rest-stop and take a nap. Additionally, if you are planning a long trip, plan to stop in the middle and stay somewhere overnight. This will assure that you are well-rested and up to the task of paying attention to the roadway.
Weather in Kentucky is notorious for changing within minutes. One minute you are enjoying a beautiful spring day and fifteen minutes later you may find yourself running for cover from a monsoon-like thunderstorm. Additionally, the winter weather can bring snow and ice, leading to dangerous driving conditions. Even experienced inclement weather drivers run a serious risk of being involved in a car accident.
If you must drive during pouring rain or other poor weather conditions, take it slow and be vigilant of your surroundings. Keep your headlights on in order to make yourself more visible to others on the roadway. Additionally, it is good idea to have an emergency kit in your vehicle’s trunk in case you happen to run off the road and get stuck in deep snow or your vehicle breaks down. Keep flares in your emergency kit and put them around your vehicle. This will alert other drivers of your presence. It is always a good idea to have a blanket handy in the winter as well, especially if you are driving in a rural area where no other drivers may pass for long periods of time.
1 See: Traffic Collision Facts
3 Source: National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES), U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts, Research Note, “An Examination of Driver Distraction as Recorded in the NHTSA Databases.”
4 See: Traffic Collision Facts
5 See: Smart Motorist