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What Really Causes Car Accidents?

Mar 01, 2018

Even though there are approximately 6 million car accidents per year, car accidents remain a bit of a mystery. When we see an accident, we all slow down and look for a moment. We may try to figure out what happened so we can avoid a similar situation in the future. We are all intelligent human beings. Yet despite road signs, speed limits, traffic lights and automobiles that are equipped with every safety feature possible, accidents still happen. Are there any common denominators?

With all the advancements we enjoy in terms of transportation safety, the incidence of car accidents is increasing. In fact, the largest jump in traffic accidents occurred in 2015, where it jumped 8%. This number jumped even higher in 2016, where it is estimated that 40,000 were killed in traffic accidents.

The University of Michigan conducted a landmark study to determine were common reasons for car accidents and see if there were any common themes among the results. The study was conducted to better understand the mechanics of a car crash. Using dash cams, sensors, accelerometers and the like researchers were able to collect scientific data on over 6,950 accidents and get some answers. Through their research, some common reasons for accidents occurred which are as follows:

Falling Asleep at the Wheel

Historically, statistics for falling asleep at the wheel have been underestimated. In this study, researchers found that falling asleep at the wheel accounts for 7% of all crashes and 21% of all fatal car accidents. Surprisingly, 37% of all drivers report that they have fallen asleep at the wheel at some point in their lives.

Loss of Control of the Vehicle

Loss of control accounts for 11% of all car accidents. We all seem to have misperceptions about our own driving skills. Interestingly, a study showed that 50% of all drivers ranked themselves in the top 20% in terms of driving safety and skills.

Blind Spots

We tend to think that if we don’t see something it doesn’t exist. This, unfortunately, doesn’t serve us well with driving. When we make a left turn at an intersection, for instance, where a bus is blocking our view, there is a leap of faith that as far as we can see in that moment, nothing is coming. The key here is to never assume.

Rolling Right Hand Turns

As you approach a traffic light to make a right-hand turn on a red light, you will look to your left to see if it is clear. You turn back to the right and suddenly there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk. This common scenario accounts for 6% of all pedestrian fatalities. What is worse, of these, 21% are children.

Unsafe Lane Changes

A total of 33% of all car accidents are caused by unsafe lane changes and leaving the road. Often this happens when we are multitasking and not giving our full attention to the road.

While these common causes aren’t anything we haven’t heard before, it is an important reminder that much of this can be avoided by slowing down and focusing on the task at hand. Minimizing sleepiness, distractions and multitasking can go a long way to keep you and your loved ones safe.