Common Causes of Car Accidents
Simple changes in behavior while behind the wheel of a car can make a big difference in saving lives and preventing injuries related to car accidents. According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, 122,551 people in New York were seriously injured and 933 people lost their lives in car crashes in 2017. At William Mattar Law Offices, we want you to be aware of 10 common causes of car accidents and be a part of the solution moving forward.
1. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving accounted for 391,000 people injured in car crashes in New York in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, U.S. fatalities from traffic accidents rose 7.2% in 2015 to 35,092—the largest increase in 50 years—and distracted driving played a role in 10% of those deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Types of Distracted Driving
What is distracted driving? Distracted driving defines any activity that can take the attention of the driver off the road. Types of distracted driving include:
- Texting and Driving
Texting while driving poses a great danger to people on the road. In fact, texting behind the wheel was outlawed in New York in 2009. Since then, instances of drivers texting have decreased significantly throughout the state.
- Using Cell Phones, GPS, or Other Electronic Devices
The penalties for cell phone use while driving continue to increase in severity. In 2011, a new law was passed in New York that made it a primary traffic offense to use a handheld electronic device to text or talk while driving. Violators of the law can be fined up to $150.
- Eating or Drinking
Eating or drinking can be just as dangerous as cell phone use. According to an article from CBS-New York News, a study was conducted at a British university and examined the reaction times of participants who were operating a driving simulator while trying to eat or drink. Researchers concluded individuals trying to eat had a 44 percent slower reaction time than those who were not, while texting and driving resulted in motorists only having 37 percent slower reaction times.
- Talking to Passengers or Tending to Children
Interacting with passengers or children in the car can be a cause of distraction. Looking away for even one second can cause a car accident. The possibility of a car crash significantly increases when a driver’s attention is diverted.
2. Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is an inexcusable act, as it not only puts the driver at a high risk of injury, but also everyone else on the road around them.
Nearly 1 in 3 traffic deaths involve motorists who are driving under the influence, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. These car accidents may involve alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs. Drunk or drugged driving with a child in the car is an especially egregious offense.
Drunk Driving Prevention
According to the CDC, almost 28 people die in the U.S. daily in a drunk driving car crash. If you are an alcohol-impaired driver, you are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident. A BAC (blood alcohol content) level of just .02% (about 2 alcoholic drinks) can negatively affect your driving. The CDC has provided safety tips:
- Designate a non-drinking driver when with a group
- Don’t let your friends drive impaired
- If you have been drinking or using drugs, get a ride home or call a taxi
- If you are hosting a party, look after your friends and ensure they are getting home safe
New York has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation. In 2009, the New York legislature passed Leandra’s Law, making it a class E felony—punishable by up to four years in prison—to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a child under age 15 in the car. The law is named after an 11-year-old girl who lost her life because of intoxicated driving.
3. Drowsy Driving
Did you know that being drowsy can impair your driving as much as drinking alcohol? In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, going 18 hours without sleep is equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, giving you an equal risk of a car crash as someone who is legally drunk.
Causes of Drowsy Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that as many as 100,000 motor vehicle collisions are attributed to drowsy driving every year. With drowsy driving one of the leading causes of car crashes today, many researchers are studying what causes drivers to get tired behind the wheel. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Sleep Disorders
Sleep apnea is a condition in which sleep is interrupted due to oxygen supplies being cut off due to an obstructed airway, which results in lack of sleep. As many as 20 percent of Americans suffer from the condition, yet an estimated 90 percent of cases go undiagnosed.
Compared to adults, teens face a five times higher risk of being involved in a drowsy driving accident. An article from Yahoo! News explains this can be the result of a lack of experience behind the wheel and irregular sleep patterns.
Prescriptions for sleeping pills have increased over the past several decades and present a serious motor vehicle accident risk. Research has shown these medications can increase crash risks by anywhere between 27-91 percent.
Symptoms of Drowsy Driving
It’s important to be aware of signs that you are getting tired. These symptoms may show up before you even begin to feel sleepy, but they indicate that you are at risk for falling asleep at any time. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s website drowsydriving.org, signs that you are getting tired and should stop and rest include:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming, wandering/disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven, missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
How do you avoid drowsiness while driving? Before you set out on a long drive, the National Sleep Foundation recommends you should make sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep, travel with a passenger who can help keep you alert by talking to you, stop every 100 miles or two hours, and avoid alcohol and medications.
Putting the pedal to the metal tends to include dangerous, car crash causing behavior like failing to keep right, failing to yield, following too closely, passing too closely, and unsafe lane changing. It’s simple: the faster you drive, the more you put yourself and those around you at risk of a dangerous car accident.
Increased awareness and improved law enforcement have helped decrease speeding in New York. Despite these measures, in 2010, 95 percent of drivers killed in fatal New York car crashes were in speeding vehicles. Slowing down can help save hundreds of lives lost to car accidents each year.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a study has shown that nearly half of all motorists who were recently surveyed stated they believe speeding is a serious problem on the roadways of the United States. However, an estimated 20 percent of these same individuals responded. “I try to get where I am going as fast as I can” while driving.
More than 25 percent of respondents stated that speeding is something that they do without thinking and another 16 percent felt that driving above the speed limit was not dangerous if the driver is skilled.
5. Vehicle Defects
When car manufacturers and their parts suppliers produce unsafe products, even the safest drivers can become car accident injury victims.
Does My Car Have a Recall?
The SaferCar.gov website provides a vehicle identification number (VIN) tool to help car owners find out if their vehicle is under a recall. By entering the VIN number assigned to your vehicle, you can learn if that vehicle has been subject to a recall during the last 15 years. This VIN tool also covers incomplete safety recalls and recalls involving manufacturers of motorcycles.
Alternately, the VIN search tool will not give information about why a safety recall exists, recalls involving international vehicles and safety recalls over 15 years old.
The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration lists the following as examples of vehicle defects considered unsafe (taken directly from NHTSA):
- Steering components that break suddenly causing partial or complete loss of vehicle control.
- Problems with fuel system components, particularly in their susceptibility to crash damage, that result in leakage of fuel and possibly cause vehicle fires.
- Accelerator controls that may break or stick.
- Wheels that crack or break, resulting in loss of vehicle control.
- Engine cooling fan blades that break unexpectedly causing injury to persons working on a vehicle.
- Windshield wiper assemblies that fail to operate properly.
- Seats and/or seat backs that fail unexpectedly during normal use.
- Critical vehicle components that break, fall apart, or separate from the vehicle, causing potential loss of vehicle control or injury to persons inside or outside the vehicle.
- Wiring system problems that result in a fire or loss of lighting.
- Car ramps or jacks that may collapse and cause injury to someone working on a vehicle.
- Air bags that deploy under conditions for which they are not intended to deploy.
Examples of vehicle defects that are not considered a safety issue, according to the NHTSA include:
- Broken radios or air conditioners
- Ordinary wear and tear of vehicle components that owners should have inspected and maintained periodically
- Body or nonstructural rust/inferior paint quality/blemishes
- Excessive consumption of oil by a vehicle
GM Ignition Recall Accidents
General Motors has recalled tens of millions of vehicles produced between 1997-2014 due to deadly accident risks caused by defective ignition components. Visit our GM Ignition Recall Accidents page to find out if your vehicle was affected and how we can help if you’ve been injured in an accident caused by a recalled GM vehicle.
Inclement weather can make driving more difficult. Rain, hail, snow, ice, fog, and even high winds are signals for you to slow down and leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Hazardous Weather Car Accident Prevention
Some tips to help prevent weather related car crashes include:
- Don’t Drive If Possible
The safest option is to stay home if you don’t have to be on the roads during hazardous weather. Rain makes roads slick, and late fall showers can freeze rather quickly. Winter storms can leave hazards besides snow and ice, including fallen branches or power lines. Windy storms can result in debris on the road which was listed as a factor in more than two thousand crashes in 2010, according to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Know The Conditions
If you must travel during snow, sleet, or freezing rain, you should check the road conditions along the route you plan to travel. Localconditions.com can give you up to date traffic reports in any major city in the U.S.
- Be Prepared
If you have to drive in hazardous weather, it is vital to take the steps needed to ensure safe travels. Along with checking the weather and road conditions, make sure your vehicle is in good condition. Tires should have plenty of tread and windshield wipers should be able to keep a clear line of vision. Remember to pack emergency supplies, including food and water, along with blankets, flashlights, and spare batteries.
- Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
Before leaving, tell a loved one your route and estimated travel time, so the authorities can be contacted to look for signs of a car accident if you fail to reach your destination.
7. Teenage Drivers
When teenagers get their licenses to drive, it can be one of the most joyous days of their lives. However, it can also be one of the most dangerous times in their lives. Specifically, many teen drivers face a significant risk when getting behind the wheel due to lack of education on the dangers of driving.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles says teen and young drivers may only make up 12 percent of all licensed drivers in the state, but they account for as much as 20 percent of all car accidents.
Teen Driver Education
According to an article from WGRZ News, The Resource Training Center is encouraging parents to talk with their teens about driving risks and why they should always remember to abide by the “5 To Drive”. To help reduce the number of car crashes teens are involved in, The Resource Training Center’s rule states teens should never:
- Use cell phones while driving
- Carry extra passengers
- Ride without a seat belt
- Drive under the influence
Car crashes can happen anywhere, but one of the most likely places for a serious collision is in highway construction zones. In fact, the New York Department of Transportation (NYDOT) reports there were 406 construction zone car crashes in 2013, which resulted in four fatalities and 259 car accident injuries.
These statistics may leave many citizens wondering what the state is doing to protect motorists and construction workers from the dangers of these collisions. In 2005, state legislators passed the Work Zone Safety Act that states fines for speeding in work zones are doubled. Furthermore, the law mandates that anyone who receives two speeding tickets in a work zone will have their license suspended.
Construction Zone Driving Safety
The NYDOT is also offering several safety tips to help prevent work zone crashes in spring and summer as highway construction projects begin to break ground across the state. Some of the NYDOT’s tips include:
- Slow Down
Slowing down will allow a driver more reaction time to maneuver in the event of an emergency.
- Drive Defensively
Expect the unexpected and allow other drivers an appropriate amount of space.
- Obey Signage
Flaggers in construction zones have the same authority as a marked sign and all directions they give should be followed. It is also important to read all signage in construction zones.
It is estimated that just under one million deer roam in New York State. The peak period for car accidents involving deer is autumn because the deer’s annual breeding season typically peaks each November, spilling over into October and December as well. During this season, deer are more active and less cautious.
Almost two-thirds of annual deer car crashes occur in the fall, with the majority of accidents occurring close to dawn or dusk. In the United States, more than a million and a half car crashes occur annually involving deer. These accidents cause over $1 billion in damage as well as numerous injuries and deaths.
10. Aggressive Driving
Many aggressive driving behaviors are unsafe and illegal. Aggressive driving can stem from anger issues, mental health issues, or simply having a bad day and taking it out on other drivers.
Types of Aggressive Driving
Aggressive drivers put themselves and all others on the road at risk of serious car accident injuries. Examples of aggressive driving include:
- Failure To Yield
- Running Red Lights / Stop Signs
Dealing With An Aggressive Driver
It is important to deal with an aggressive driver rationally and calmly. Avoid retaliation and consider the consequences of your potential actions. If an aggressive driver follows you, stay in your car, lock your doors and wait for help to arrive. Some safety tips for dealing with an aggressive driver to avoid car accidents include:
- Wear your seat belt
- Don’t “play their game”
- Ignore honking and rude gestures
- Contact the police if you can do so safely
Make A Difference On The Road
Many car crashes are preventable. Using safe driving practices could save your life or the life of another. To stay safe on the road, the car accident injury attorneys at William Mattar suggest taking three simple precautions while driving:
- Put down the phone
- Avoid speeding and aggressive driving
- Don’t drink and drive
Thanks to enforcement programs and the passage of distracted driving laws in New York, the roads in our state are slowly getting safer. The use of handheld phones in cars has dropped significantly in recent years. Likewise, law enforcement efforts and safety programs across New York have kept the number of speeding-related car accident fatalities on a downward trend since 2005.
Unfortunately, statistics show that several hundred people in New York State still lose their lives because of speeding each year. We urge drivers to slow down and give their undivided attention to the road while driving.
Hurt In A Car? Call William Mattar.
If you have been injured, contact the attentive car accident attorneys at William Mattar today. Call (844) 444-4444 or complete a free initial consultation form now. We have more than two decades of experience helping car crash injury victims throughout New York State.