In 2005, there were almost 6.5 million automobile accidents in the United States. The cost of these crashes totaled more than $230 billion. Almost 3 million people were injured and more than 45,000 died. On average, another person dies in a car crash every 12 minutes in this country – that’s approximately 123 deaths per day.
Throught the coordinated efforts of automobile designers, manufacturers and organizations like the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety),
the safest cars, with the most advanced safety features are being driven off car lots each year. If that is the case, what are the most common causes of car accidents? Well, there are four major factors that contribute to vehicle accidents. They are, in ascending order, mechanical issues, road design / maintenance, road condition, and poor driver performance. The latter is, of course, the most significant, and 95% of all accidents involving motor vehicles – worldwide – include poor driver performance in tandem with one of the other three.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors:
While car manufacturers are required by law to design and engineer vehicles that adhere to industry-wide safety standards, automobile crash testing cannot examine and mitigate all possible accident scenarios. Despite this, with the exception of major faults that result in brand-wide recalls (think Firestone tires), mechanical issues only account for about 5 of all car accidents.
When mechanical issues are to blame, the following are the most common:
- Brakes. Total brake failure has become rare since the advent of anti-lock braking systems and disc brakes, but on older vehicles with drum brakes fading due to heat is possible, and even on modern vehicles brake fluid and brake shoes and pads need to be maintained.
- Tires. Again, modern technology has vastly improved the quality of the tires we use, but underinflation and uneven wear (meaning your tires haven’t been rotated or balanced) are still extremely hazardous.
Road Design and Maintenance
While it’s habitual for many of us to complain about the poor signage or poor planning of the roads we use every day, the truth is that road design doesn’t really influence accidents all that much. When road design does become an issue, it’s generally because of blind turns, blocked signs, and temporary diversions because of construction, and none of these typically becomes dangerous unless the person behind the wheel is driving too fact to anticipate necessary changes.
While inclement weather can make an ordinarily safe road into a treacherous one, especially if you live in a place where snow and ice are common, it is, again, usually only when poor driver performance is factored in that serious risk exists. Poor road condition may exist because of weather, lack of funds for maintenance, or stop-and-go traffic which curtails normal traffic flow, and it is this latter that is most dangerous because most drivers are so concerned about being rear-ended that they lose track of the car in front of theirs, and end up doing the rear-ending.
Poor Driver Performance
A recent study conducted in Europe discovered that 80% of drivers involved in traffic accidents believe someone else is at fault, and 5% take responsibility for their actions, while the other 15% represent varied combined responses. While distractions can cause accidents – cell phone conversations, sipping coffee, applying make-up – the biggest cause of vehicle accidents is speeding, though aggression is quickly becoming a significant cause as well. In fact, reports by the New York State Police show that the following factors (in order) cause the most accidents – and all of them are under the driver’s control:
- Unsafe or too-frequent lane changing
- Not using turn signals
- Not yielding the right of way
- Ignoring traffic signals
- Driving while impaired by alcohol or chemicals.
They are quick to assure that aggressive behaviors (tailgating and speeding are among them) are not at all akin to road rage, which is a specific condition. Law enforcement officers are also generally quick to remind us that the chance of a motor vehicle accident increase by 50% once the sun goes down.
If reading all these numbers seems grim, consider this: if 100 accidents are caused by poor driving, there is a 14% chance that if the driver not at fault is insured, the other driver is not.
This is why the dedicated creators of CarInsuranceList.com stress the fact that you should never leave your driveway without automobile insurance.
If worst come to worst you might need a personal injury lawyer.