The United States is now home to an estimated 230 million licensed drivers. Experts forecast this to grow to a staggering 234.2 million come 2022.
With that many drivers, it’s no wonder that so many road users get into car accidents. Health experts say that at least three million people in the US get injured in road crashes each year. Worse, thousands of other people die because of such incidents.
As if that’s not bad enough, most of the primary causes of car accidents in the US are preventable. Most of these entail negligence, while others are willful acts of endangerment.
To that end, we created this guide detailing five of the top causes of vehicle accidents in the US. Read on as knowing these may help you prevent getting yourself in such situations.
1. Distracted Driving
In 2018, about 400,000 individuals in the US sustained injuries due to distracted drivers. Worse, such dangerous driving behaviours claimed the lives of more than 2,800 people. This makes driving distractions one of, if not the leading cause of car accidents in the US.
What It Means to Drive Distractedly
Anything that makes a driver lose even a small percentage of their focus on the road is a distraction. These include visual, manual, or cognitive factors. They all divert a driver’s attention away from the road and nearby vehicles.
Visual distractions are those that make a driver look at something else other than the road. An incoming text or call on a dash-mounted smartphone is a perfect example. Looking at a gathering of people on the sidewalk is another.
Manual distractions occur when drivers remove their hands from the steering wheel. An example is lighting a cigarette or eating or drinking while driving.
Cognitive distractions are thoughts that impair a driver’s mental abilities. This can be thinking about work or worrying about a problem at school or at home.
Common Types of Driving Distractions
One of the most common forms of driving distraction is the use of a mobile device. About two in three of all traffic accidents involve mobile phone use. Texting while driving, in particular, is among the deadliest of all driving distractions.
According to experts, texting while driving is more likely to lead to a crash than driving drunk. Compared to an intoxicated driver, a driver who texts while on the road is six times more likely to cause a crash.
Being “lost in thought” is another way to drive distractedly. People, events, or objects outside of a vehicle can also be a distraction. Passengers themselves can make the driver lose their focus on the road.
2. Intoxication or Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
If you’re wondering what the leading cause of fatal car accidents in the US is, it’s DUI (or DWI). In 2018, 10,511 fatal crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. So, the percentage of car accidents caused by drunk driving with fatalities was 29% for that year.
Do note that driving with a BAC of at least 0.08% is already illegal in all states. However, Utah’s laws are even more stringent, as it’s already a crime to drive here with a BAC of 0.05%.
Besides, even just a BAC of between 0.05% and 0.079% can already raise one’s deadly crash risks by 7 to 21 times. In fact, even a BAC of less than 0.05% can already hinder a person’s balance and coordination. Sleepiness can also set in between a BAC of 0.01 and 0.05%.
Speeding was also a common denominator in 26% of all fatal road accidents in the US in 2018. Drivers who went beyond the speed limit contributed to the deaths of 9,378 people that year. This makes speeding one of the primary causes of road accident fatalities in the US.
Some speeding cases don’t lead to injuries, so the law may only regard them as minor infractions. According to car accident lawyers, though, speeding can also become a felony charge. This can happen if the offending drivers cause severe injuries or deaths.
4. Drowsy Driving
Each year, an estimated 100,000 police-reported crashes are due to drowsy drivers. Of these, over two-thirds, or 71,000 incidents, resulting in injuries. Unfortunately, drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel also cause over 1,500 deaths.
Note that drowsy drivers don’t have to fall asleep just to cause an accident. The fact that they drive while sleepy is enough to make them lose focus and concentration. Sleepiness or fatigue can also significantly reduce their reaction times.
In this way, drowsy driving is often a form of cognitive distraction. It may also be a manual distraction, such as when a driver takes one hand off the wheel to cover a yawn by instinct.
5. Aggressive and Reckless Driving Behaviors
In 2018, 3,706 fatal road accidents involved aggressive and reckless drivers. Careless vehicle operation was a factor in 2,797 fatalities. Erratic or negligent driving was also a common denominator in 1,955 deaths.
These are examples of aggressive or reckless driving, both of which put others in danger. However, aggressive driving also involves intentional harassing acts. Aggressive drivers usually employ scare tactics against other drivers or pedestrians.
Reckless driving is any form of deliberate hazardous driving behaviours. It may not involve scare tactics, but it’s still against the law, as it puts others in danger. Beating the red light or excessive lane changes are a couple of examples.
Responsible Driving: The Key to Preventing the Top Causes of Car Accidents
As you can see, negligence is a common factor in many of the top causes of car accidents in the US. Distracted driving and driving while intoxicated are both negligent behaviours. They cause so many injuries and deaths, which is why the law severely punishes those who commit such acts.
So, always be a responsible driver! Don’t use your phone while operating your ride, and never get behind the wheel if you’ve had a few beers.
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