Drivers have a responsibility to remain focused and obey all state and federal driving regulations. Of course, drivers are humans and all humans make mistakes. In the best of cases, a driving mistake results only in an elevated heart rate and a near miss. In other cases, mistakes while driving cause a car accident that results in an injury or death.
By knowing the most common causes of accidents, both new and experienced drivers can prevent the scenarios most likely to cause a collision. The more we all pay attention to these potential instigators, the safer the roadways will be.
The most recent statistics are courtesy of the National Law Review. It is also worth pointing out that the recent increase in car accidents, especially those involving injuries and/or fatalities, is so prevalent that, “...the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s public health agency, treats motor vehicle safety as one of its primary concerns. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States and a major source of patients in U.S. hospital emergency rooms.”
Statistics show that distracted or inattentive driving is now the leading cause of car accidents in California and the United States. Within this category, the DMV, NHTSA, and other state traffic officials have further categorized the most common causes of driver distraction as:
Sending/receiving texts and emails (as well as screen scrolling)
Prior to cell phones, distracted driving was lower on the list, preceded by drunk driving. Unfortunately, for all of the benefits technology offers, it has undeniably contributed to more car accidents than any other cause. Smartphones, and their ability to serve as handheld computers, as well as TV/Movie screens within vehicles, have compounded the problem.
Officials consider smartphones to be a “triple threat” because they require you to take your eyes off the road, using the phone largely involves one-handed driving (despite efforts to create hands-free technology), and engaging with the phone “effectively drowns out a part of the brain essential to keeping a car in a lane and rolling at a safe speed.”
Rubber-necking (taking your eyes off the road to look at something else)
In addition to taking your eyes off the road, rubber-necking or staring at something outside of the lanes of traffic causes your brain to disengage from a safe driving speed. Also, your hands on the wheel are likely to turn in the direction of your gaze, which can cause you to veer into other lanes or off the road completely.
Interior car noise, music or other audible distractions
When your ears engage with car sounds, they are less likely to hear any sounds outside such as the squeal of brakes, the noise of a car or motorcycle traveling too close to yours, emergency vehicles, etc. Also, if you are someone who likes to sing along with the music, focusing on the lyrics takes your attention away from the road.
Performing any manual task while driving, like shaving, applying makeup, eating, writing, or even reaching for something on the floor or passenger seat puts you at risk for drifting out of your lane and into oncoming traffic or off the road and into a sign, tree or an unsuspecting bicycle rider or pedestrian.
When you are lost in thought, it means you are not paying attention to the road.
While this one can feel out of a driver’s control, severe glare produces tunnel vision or temporarily suspends visibility. A clean windshield and quality sunglasses, as well as proper use of your vehicle’s sun visors, are your best protection. Otherwise, drive with extreme caution.
Studies have shown over and over again that driving while fatigued or feeling drowsy is equivalent to driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Health officials are clear that an adult’s belief that s/he can “get by on little sleep,” is simply untrue. You may feel like you are fine, but statistics prove that “a driver who has been awake for 18 hours straight suffers from the same visual, motor and cognitive impairments as a driver with a 0.05 blood alcohol level ...Drowsy drivers nod off behind the wheel for a second or two, a phenomenon known as micro-sleeping, which is plenty long enough for a vehicle to crash. Even drivers who do not fall asleep at the wheel still suffer from slower reaction times and confused decision-making that leads to crashes.”
Sadly, about 25% to 30% of all accidents involve some level of alcohol consumption or drug use. Accidents related to alcohol or drug impairment also have a tendency to be more dangerous and deadly.
It’s important to note that this category includes legal, prescription, and over-the-counter medications. Always read the small print. If you are taking a medication that has a warning pertaining to operating motor vehicles, drowsiness, etc., you may be liable for any accident you are involved in.
Keep in mind that causes of accidents overlap. Officials state that at least 30% or more of all vehicle accidents are caused by drivers exceeding the speed limit - and that could very well contribute to any of the common causes of car accidents listed above.
The scary thing about speeding is the direct correlation between speed and accidents that result in injury or death. Every mile per hour over the speed limit you are traveling exponentially increases the power of your vehicle's impact with another vehicle, body, or object.
The bottom line is that we could drastically decrease the number of auto accidents in California by making five commitments: (1) abstain from using the phone while driving; (2) remain focused on the road; (3) get adequate sleep; (4) do not drive after drinking, taking drugs or using medications known to impact driving; and (5) stick to the speed limit.
Are you the victim of an accident that occurred as the result of one of these leading causes of car accidents in California? Schedule a free consultation with Burneikis Law - (510) 328-3238. Even if you choose not to pursue your case in court, we can provide sound advice to protect your best interests and ensure you are taken care of by the insurance companies.