Most drivers and passengers feel comfortable and at ease in cars. We spend the time listening to music or podcasts and talking to each other as we travel. It’s easy to forget that we’re actually hurtling along at high speeds and vulnerable to serious injuries in a crash. Still, early 2022 crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals that 31,785 traffic deaths occurred during the first nine months of the year, and many more thousands of injuries.
Cars are an integral part of daily life as we drive to work, school, errands, events, and activities, but understanding how car accidents occur and how to prevent them helps minimize the risk to improve safety on the roadways.
Prepare for Inclement Weather Conditions
There’s nothing a driver can do to control the weather—a significant cause of car accidents—but avoiding driving during stormy weather, wet or icy roads, snow, or fog greatly reduces the risk of experiencing a car accident. If you must drive in poor weather conditions, be sure to adjust your speed to accommodate the increased risk. Always use your headlights in poor lighting conditions, and install snow tires in cold climates. Be vigilant when driving in conditions that cause black ice and always keep emergency supplies in your car during winter weather.
Avoid Distracted Driving
Distracted driving accidents have risen dramatically since smartphones came into popular use, resulting in 3,522 fatalities in 2021 and many more injuries. While smartphones are the number one cause of distracted driving, eating or grooming behind the wheel, reaching for fallen items, and visiting with passengers inside the vehicle also cause distracted driving accidents. It’s critical to resist temptation and avoid using hands-on technology while driving. In only five seconds—the amount of time it takes to read an average text—a car driving 55mph travels the distance of a football field while the driver’s eyes are off the road.
Carefully Follow Speed Limits
Not only is speeding one of the most common causes of car accidents, but it also increases the likelihood of serious injuries in a crash. For every mile-per-hour increase in speed, the crash force also increases in an accident. At a sedate 50 mph, a 100-pound person becomes a 5,000-pound force in a car accident.
Speeding increases force, reduces reaction time, and increases instability around curves, bends, and potholes in the road.
Failing to leave enough space between your vehicle and the one directly in front of you is often called “tailgating.” Following too closely doesn’t leave the rear driver adequate time to apply the brakes and stop if the front vehicle suddenly brakes or experiences an accident. The rule of thumb for driving distances between cars is to add one car length for every 10mph of speed as you travel. You can also test if you’re following too closely by choosing a fixed point on the road ahead. After the front vehicle passes the point, begin counting. At 55mph, at least three seconds should pass before your vehicle passes the same point.
Never Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol or Other Substances
The NHTSA warns, “If you feel different, you drive different.” Alcohol and other intoxicating or mood-altering substances significantly impair driving. Even if you think you’re under the legal limit, alcohol and other substances slow reaction times, increase drowsiness, and impair judgment and cognition. The more you drink, the more difficult it is to judge your level of intoxication and make good decisions. It’s important to choose a reliable designated driver if you plan to enjoy drinks or other substances while out with friends or family.
Follow All Traffic Laws and Safety Rules
It’s essential to know and rigidly adhere to all traffic laws such as yielding the right of way at intersections, making safe lane changes, and avoiding aggressive driving. Traffic laws are in place to increase safety and provide the smoothest possible flow of traffic. Though we can’t control what other drivers do on the roadway, by following traffic laws, we minimize the risk of causing a New Haven car accident and facing injuries and liability.