When drivers are negligent, they can cause accidents and claim lives. But even everyday habits can have the same effect. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates over 32,000 auto accident deaths occurred in the United States in 2013. Let’s look at some all-too-common habits that can cause auto accidents and tips for avoiding them.
1. Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is the leading cause of auto fatalities in the U.S. A study by the CDC blamed alcohol for about 30% of traffic-related deaths in 2012. Alcohol isn’t the only substance that can impair drivers – in a 2013 study, nearly 10 million drivers reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs. Alcohol and drugs impair reasoning and reflexes, which is why many drunk drivers (or “buzzed drivers”) overestimate their ability to drive safely or believe they won’t get caught. Planning ahead can save lives – take a cab or designate a sober driver, and make sure your friends do the same.
2. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is any activity that involves drivers looking away from the road, including talking, eating and adjusting the radio – but smartphones have taken distracted driving to a new level. Cell phone distraction is responsible for up to 1 in 4 car crashes in the U.S. Cell phone use poses a special threat because it involves high-attention activities like texting, surfing the internet, and even taking selfies while driving. Using cell phones while driving is so pervasive (and deadly) that drivers of all ages are pledging to not text and drive.
Speeding has been a consistent factor in motor vehicle crashes and fatalities for decades. Although the number of speeding-related fatalities has dropped over the years with tighter restrictions and safer vehicles, the IIHS reported that speeding was a factor in 29% of traffic fatalities in 2013. Driving faster than the posted speed limit increases the chances of collision on its own, but often occurs with other risky behavior, such as distracted driving, aggressive driving (or “road rage”) and even drunk driving.
4. Driving Without a Seatbelt
Wearing a seatbelt can dramatically reduce or prevent injuries, yet many drivers don’t consistently wear one. According to the CDC, seatbelts can reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half. Not wearing a seatbelt is particularly common in young people (ages 18-34), who are less likely to wear one than other age groups. Furthermore, men are 10% less likely than women to wear seatbelts. Whether you’re going on a road trip or going around the corner, wearing a seatbelt is one of the easiest ways to keep safe on the road.
5. Driving While Tired
According to the NHTSA, more than 83,000 crashes, and over 1,000 fatalities a year are the result of drowsy driving. Driving while tired has similar effects as drunk driving: slower reaction times, decreased awareness and impaired decision-making. Drowsy driving also includes falling asleep behind the wheel, which can be fatal even if it only lasts a few seconds. Commercial drivers and young drivers (ages 16-25) are more likely to drive tired. Drinking coffee, listening to music or opening a window can help energize drivers; so can pulling over to a safe area and taking a short nap.
6. Driving in Bad Weather
Snow, rain, sleet – bad weather conditions can affect even the most careful drivers. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 23% of crashes are related to weather and result in 6,250 deaths a year. Wet pavement is the leading cause (74%), followed by rain (46%) and snow/sleet (15%). When driving in inclement weather, make sure your tires have adequate traction, your headlights are working and you use chains or snow tires in the winter. One of the easiest ways to stay safe in bad weather is to simply slow down.
Knowing the risks bad driving habits pose can help make you a more responsible motorist. You can drive with even more peace of mind with the right insurance coverage. Nationwide rewards safe drivers with accident-free discounts.