Each year in June, the National Safety Council (NSC) observes National Safety Month to increase public safety awareness and reduce preventable injuries and deaths. One of the most important aspects of this mission is reducing car crashes, which are among the leading causes of preventable fatalities and injuries in the U.S. — especially among people ages 16–25, who die more often due to traffic crashes than from any other preventable cause.
Many car wrecks happen because of a few common risk factors, from cell phone use to poor auto maintenance. In this blog article, we’ll highlight the sometimes-overlooked car safety concerns that can contribute to vehicle crashes. We’ll also discuss how you can adopt safer habits to reduce your risk of being involved in a collision.
1. Distracted Driving
According to statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving kills thousands of people every year. In 2016 alone, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives.
When we think about distracted driving, our minds likely go first to cell phones, loud kids, flashing road signs and similar distractions that come from around us.
However, it’s important to realize that distracted driving can happen even without these external factors. Stress, poor sleep, hunger, mental to-do lists, certain medications, and even strong emotions might keep your mind from focusing fully on the road in front of you.
Still, you can reduce your risk for distraction by removing as many potential sources as possible, including food, cigarettes, and that always-tempting cell phone. If you must keep your cell phone on while driving, consider implementing apps or devices that block texts and calls while the vehicle is in motion.
RELATED ARTICLE: Distracted Driving Laws Are Great — But People Keep Causing Crashes
It might take a little more discipline to keep your hands off distracting car features like the temperature controls and especially the radio. It’s important to keep in mind that just because something comes attached to the car doesn’t mean you can use it safely while you’re behind the wheel.
Finally, don’t get behind the wheel if your brain isn’t ready to be there. If you’re short on sleep, drowsy from medication, overly excited, or stressed-out, hand the keys to someone else or wait until you feel more prepared for the task at hand.
“According to statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving kills thousands of people every year. In 2016 alone, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives.”
2. Vehicle Recalls
In a perfect world, crashes wouldn’t happen if the road conditions were safe and if drivers behaved ideally. In reality, our own cars can be a major crash risk factor, and they can compromise our safety in the best of driving situations and weather conditions.
You’ve likely heard about auto manufacturers issuing vehicle recalls after passengers were injured or killed because of a vehicle safety malfunction. In fact, these recalls are even more common than you probably realize. In both 2015 and 2016, auto manufacturers issued about 900 recalls per year that affected cars in the U.S. (which is far more than in previous years).
The NHTSA estimates that at any given time, more than 50 million vehicles with unresolved safety recalls are on U.S. roads. These potential issues could involve brakes, air bags, and any other part of the automobile.
No matter how minor a recall may seem, it’s not worth risking the lives of yourself, your passengers, and other people on the roadways by ignoring it. You should check your vehicle right now and every so often going forward to make sure there aren’t any outstanding recalls you need to know about. The NHSTA makes it easy to perform a vehicle recall search on domestic automobiles with its VIN recall search tool.
3. Night Driving
Driving at night is more dangerous than daytime driving for the simple reason that there is less light. Add to that sleepier drivers and the reflections and glares of night-time lights and you have a recipe for increased crash risk.
According to the National Safety Council, night-time visibility for most cars is limited to 500 feet ahead with the high-beam headlights on, and only 250 feet with the normal headlights on. Color recognition, depth perception, and peripheral vision are all compromised in low light, and especially so among older adults.
In addition, drivers are more likely to be sleepy at night. This is a serious and widespread problem: In a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, almost 40 percent of drivers admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel.
RELATED ARTICLE: Drowsy Driving Accidents Are On the Rise
The NSC makes the following suggestions for staying alert while driving:
- Sleep at least seven hours every night.
- Don’t drive after being awake for 24 hours or more.
- Stop every two hours to rest and move your body.
- Pull over to nap as soon as you feel drowsy.
- Travel during your usual waking hours.
Finally, get your eyes checked regularly, and ask your doctor if you need any form of vision correction for night driving. Even if you didn’t need glasses before, your vision may have changed over time, and it’s important to make sure your eyesight is up to the challenging task of driving in the dark.
4. Poor Auto Maintenance
Many of us only visit an auto repair shop when something goes wrong with our car. But regular auto maintenance and check-ups are key to reducing your crash risk.
For example, inspecting, rotating and changing your tires on a regular schedule helps them maintain proper air pressure and tread depth, which improve your car’s braking, handling, and more. These performance factors can play an important role when you need to make a quick maneuver to avoid a collision or hazard.
Learn about the regular maintenance your car needs by visiting Edmunds’ Car Maintenance Guide.
5. Teen Driving
Most adult drivers began operating vehicles in their teens, and most of them probably have a story about their own inexperienced driving mishaps.
According to the NSC, teen drivers perform worse than adult drivers at everything from judging speeds and gaps in traffic to eliminating distractions and bad habits. Perhaps it’s no surprise that half of all teens will be involved in an auto crash before graduating high school.
Of course, teens themselves aren’t fully aware of how inexperienced they are. They need the adults in their lives to show them proper driving habits and encourage a respect for the rules of the road.
RELATED ARTICLE: AAA Research Emphasizes the Dangers of Teenage Distracted Driving
If you’re raising a teen driver, make sure they abide by the following rules whenever they drive:
- No cell phone use while driving.
- Everyone in the car must wear a seatbelt.
- Keep the number of passengers to a safe limit (i.e., no piling in passengers when there are no more seats, sitting on laps, etc.).
- Follow all posted speed limits and all traffic laws regarding turning, passing, stopping, and yielding.
- Ask front-seat passengers to alter radio and climate settings instead of doing it while driving.
Crosley Law: Committed to Helping Victims of Negligent Driving in San Antonio
Unfortunately, no matter how much effort you put into being a safe driver, you can’t control other people’s behavior, which means you can never eliminate your risk for a car crash. At Crosley Law Firm, we work with car accident victims to identify distracted, at-fault drivers, and we fight to get those victims fair compensation for their injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured by someone else’s negligent actions, please contact us by calling 210-LAW-3000 or through our simple online contact form. We’ll be glad to offer a free consultation to discuss your case and inform you about your legal options.
Distracted driving. (n.d.). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving.
Ending distracted driving is everyone’s responsibility. (n.d.) National Safety Council. Retrieved from https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/distracted-driving/.
Facts and stats. (n.d.) Drowsy driving prevention week. Retrieved from http://drowsydriving.org/about/facts-and-stats/.
Liu, Y., Singh, S., & Subramanian, R. (2015, October). Motor vehicle traffic crashes as a leading cause of death in the United States,
2010 and 2011 (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 812 203). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812203
Teens’ biggest safety threat is sitting on the driveway. (n.d.) National Safety Council. Retrieved from https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/teen-driving.
The most dangerous time to drive. (n.d.) National Safety Council. Retrieved from https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/night-driving.
Vehicle recall summary by year. (2017, January 30.) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/annualvehiclerecallssince1996.pdf.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.