What do you do every day while driving that has the greatest potential to get you into a car accident?
As MSN Autos puts it, “Don’t just blame it on ‘them’ — everyone is guilty of making common driving mistakes that can endanger us all.”
The No. 1 fatal mistake made by drivers is perhaps the most simple: not staying in their own lane. In 2007, 15,574 people died in crashes where the driver simply couldn’t stay in the lane, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Driving While Drowsy
In 2007 fatigued driving caused the deaths of 1,404 people, according to the NHTSA. More traffic fatalities occurred during the hours when most people are accustomed to being asleep (3 a.m. to 6 a.m.) than at any other time of day.
“Driving a vehicle when you are fatigued is as dangerous as driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs,” National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said after a fatal highway accident in 2003 in which a college student who had been awake for the previous 18 hours was driving a carload of fellow students at 5 a.m.
Drinking and Driving
Every 40 minutes someone dies in a drunk-driving accident. (A little-known fact is that you can be charged with driving while impaired even if you’re under the legal limit of .08).
Young drivers are particularly prone to drinking and driving: The 21- to 34-year-old set is responsible for well over half of alcohol-related fatal crashes. Not surprisingly, the decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated is made most often at night and on the weekends. According to the NHTSA, 60 percent of drivers who died after dark in 2007 were legally drunk. Alcohol is also a factor in half of pedestrian traffic deaths – both drivers and pedestrians are the culprits.
Overcorrecting or oversteering is a particularly perilous maneuver when you’re behind the wheel of an SUV driving on the highway at high speeds. Consider it a rollover waiting to happen. More than 4 percent of automobile fatalities a year occur because of drivers overcorrecting.
Racing, driving faster than the posted speed limit or simply going too fast for road conditions comprises the second highest cause of death in fatal crashes, according to the NHTSA.
Once you hit 55 mph, you’re in the danger zone: 30 percent of fatalities occur at 55 or above.
Failure to Yield Right of Way
For drivers age 70 and above, failing to yield while merging into traffic is the top cause of crashes. In a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers 80 and older simply fail to see the other vehicle they should be yielding to. Drivers 70 to 79 see the vehicle but misjudge whether they have time to proceed ahead of it. Failure to yield right of way was the fifth leading cause of fatal crashes in 2007.
Erratic or Reckless Driving
At its mildest, we’re talking about weaving and tailgating; at its most severe, this kind of driving involves steering down the wrong side of the road, exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph or doing more than 80 mph, and worse. Reckless driving can bring fines, jail time – and death. More than 1,850 fatalities in 2007 were the result of erratic or reckless drivers.
Running Red Lights
A whopping 75 percent of automobile crashes occur in cities, according to the nonprofit Insurance Research Council. The most common cause of these accidents? Hitting the gas when the light turns red.
Not Wearing a Seat Belt
Despite the fact that seat belt use is far more prevalent than even a decade ago – not to mention being legally required – 33 percent of people who die in vehicle fatalities failed to buckle up. Without a seat belt, car drivers and passengers put themselves at risk of being ejected from a vehicle, and 76 percent of the time the ejection ends in death.
Eating, talking on a cell phone, typing text messages and fumbling with the car stereo all fall under the umbrella of inattentive driving, which was responsible for 4,704 deaths in 2007. Of these bad habits, cell phone use behind the wheel is becoming standard practice, with an estimated 1 million Americans driving and talking on the phone at any given time — those who use their cell phone while driving increase their risk of an accident by four times.
While we call them accidents, with the exception of seat belt usage the remaining nine items on this list are driver behaviors that can lead to a serious accident. In some cases, reckless behavior behind the wheel can lead to criminal charges. And in every instance, someone who is seriously injured or killed in a car accident by a negligent driver can seek damages to compensate them for their loss or injury.
If you or someone you love has been in a Chicago car accident, the personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.