Car accidents are an unfortunate reality of driving. While some accidents are unavoidable, many could be prevented by driving defensively and avoiding common driving mistakes. This article will examine some of the most frequent causes of accidents and provide tips to help avoid them.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were over 19k million police-reported motor vehicle crash fatalities in the United States in 2023.
Many factors contribute to the risk of a collision, including distracted driving, speeding, impairment, fatigue, weather conditions, vehicle failure, and more. While we can’t control everything on the road, smart defensive driving habits can help protect ourselves and others.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car crashes. Any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the road, even for a few seconds, can lead to an accident. Common distractions include:
- Using a cell phone – talking, texting, or accessing apps. Even hands-free calling can be distracting.
- Eating, drinking, or adjusting music controls. Reaching for dropped items is hazardous.
- Attending to children or pets in the backseat. Loud kids or a loose dog can be dangerous diversions.
- Daydreaming or being lost in thought. Fatigue and zoning out lower reaction times.
- Applying makeup, shaving, or other personal grooming while driving.
- Reading maps or programming GPS while the vehicle is in motion.
- Watching video screens or adjusting music playlists on infotainment centers.
To combat distracted driving:
- Turn off electronic devices and store them out of reach before starting the car. Designate a passenger to handle them.
- Pull over safely to attend to food, drinks, music controls, children, pets or grooming needs.
- Stay focused on driving and avoid daydreaming – take a break if needed.
- Adjust vehicle controls and navigation before hitting the road.
- Secure children and pets properly to avoid loose objects and noise.
Eyes and attention must remain on the road at all times. Avoiding distractions requires discipline but is essential for accident prevention.
Aggressive driving behaviors like speeding, frequent lane changes, tailgating, and road rage greatly raise the risk of a collision. To avoid driving aggressively:
- Leave plenty of time to reach your destination and avoid rushing
- Maintain safe following distances and proper lane positioning
- Use turn signals, pass carefully, and avoid confrontations with other drivers
- Take deep breaths and remain calm if frustrated by traffic or other drivers
Drowsy driving causes thousands of accidents every year. Warning signs of fatigue include yawning, difficulty focusing, heavy eyelids, and drifting between lanes. To avoid drowsy driving:
- Get adequate sleep before a long trip
- Take regular breaks – about every 100 miles or 2 hours
- Switch drivers if possible on very long trips
- Pull over and nap if extremely tired – even 20 minutes can help
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal, dangerous, and a common factor in severe crashes. To avoid impaired driving:
- Designate or pay for a sober driver if you plan to drink
- Call a rideshare service, taxi, or trusted friend for a ride
- If you are on medication, know the side effects and refrain from driving if impaired
- Never ride as a passenger with an impaired driver
Inclement weather like rain, snow, and fog can make driving treacherous. To help avoid crashes:
- Slow down and increase your following distance in bad weather. Higher speeds lead to longer stopping distances on slick roads.
- Turn on headlights to increase visibility for other drivers. Be sure to turn them on early – not just when it’s dark.
- Avoid unnecessary trips when weather is severe. If possible, wait out storms rather than driving in heavy rain, snow, or dense fog.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding on wet roads. Pump the brakes slowly rather than slamming them to stop without losing control.
- Be extra cautious on bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas. These freeze first in cold weather.
- Watch for hydroplaning in heavy rain. Try to avoid puddles and don’t use cruise control.
- Clear all snow and ice from your car before driving. Good visibility is key.
- Stock an emergency kit with warm clothes, food, water, blankets, and other supplies.
While driving in bad weather, take it slow and be alert. Give yourself ample time to react and extra distance between cars. Patience and caution will go a long way in preventing accidents.
While not every accident can be prevented, driving defensively and avoiding common errors can go a long way in keeping us safe on the roads. Being attentive, calm, sober, and well-rested while driving greatly reduces crash risk. Considering these tips can help us get where we’re going accident-free.
If you have been involved in a car accident, contact us. You can visit our offices at the following addresses:
- 101 W Ohio St #2077, Indianapolis IN 46204
- 3209 W Smith Valley Rd #149, Greenwood IN 46142
- 9165 Otis Ave Suite 237, Indianapolis IN 46216
Call us today for a free consultation on (317) 720-3229.