According to global statistics, more than 1.35 million people die on the road each year. Additionally, up to 50 million people suffer long-term disabilities related to non-fatal injuries. Shockingly, almost three-quarters of those who lose their lives in road traffic deaths are males under the age of 25.
In the U.S., the causes of preventable car accidents are extensive. Common causes include speeding, unsafe or unregulated vehicles, and unsafe road infrastructure. However, several causes deserve particular attention – and these will be the focus of this article. Let’s take a look!
Alcohol-impaired driving is pervasive in the U.S., with some statistics linking alcohol to nearly 30% of fatal car accidents. Short of mentioning how easily drink driving is preventable, drivers must begin to feel the personal responsibility of taking to the wheel when they are not (feeling) sober.
Some of the latest campaigns against drug-impaired driving include “Drive sober or get pulled over” and “If You Feel Different, You Drive Different — Drive High Get a DUI”. And the newest message helps drivers remember that if they are under the influence of any psychoactive drugs, such as marijuana, meth, or prescription medication, they are also impaired and face punishment if they are caught driving under the influence.
Applying importantly to drink driving is the enforcement of traffic laws and regulations. Without the perception that risky behavior will be penalized or even caught, it is unlikely that authorities will be able to change the behavior of road users who are driving recklessly but improving accident statistics will entail stricter enforcement and punishment of unlawful traffic behavior, including seat-belt wearing, abiding by the speed limit, and using child restraints.
When your alertness has been impaired by a lack of sleep, alcohol, or other psychoactive substance, such as a prescription medication, you are at an increased risk for drowsy driving.
Driving drowsy means your attention, alertness, and vigilance on the road is below functional. According to statistics, peak sleepiness on the roads occurs between midnight and 6 a.m., placing drivers during this period at heightened risk of causing or being involved in a car accident. Though being drowsy may not be preventable, driving in this state is.
It is advised that a sober and alert driver takes to the wheel, but with drowsy driving statistically significantly involving single drivers, this is not always realistic. Driving coffee or an energy drink may help temporarily, but taking a nap when fatigue sets in would be ideal. Other tips to help increase attentiveness include opening the window for a blast of fresh and cooler air, take regular breaks when it is safe, listen to talk radio, switch on the A/C to cool the area, eat snacks to keep your energy up, stay hydrated, and play mental games to keep your mind attentive and awake.
New distracted driving laws are now attempting to draw greater attention to distracted driving, defined simply as engaging in another behavior or activity which diverts your focus off the road.
Some of the most common reasons people become distracted while driving includes talking to the passenger, eating food, adjusting the temperature in the vehicle, rubbernecking (consciously staring at something of interest outside the car), and even daydreaming.
However, the most common distraction on the road is mobile phone use. States are instilling various bans and cell phone driving laws, helping drivers navigate the use of electronic devices while driving. Texting was found to be the most dangerous of all, impacting the driver’s ability to stay in the correct lane and keep a safe following distance. The largest consequence of mobile phone use while driving is the slowing of reaction times, including reduced time to brake and react to traffic signals.
Though the other causes of accidents not thoroughly explored are significant to discuss, the aforementioned points require particular attention and urgency.
Organizations and authorities around the U.S. and the world are working hard to change the reckless and risky behavior of drivers – with varying success. However, what will help is a holistic response that looks at all behaviors and factors that place motor users at higher risk of being involved in a car accident.
From the production and manufacturing of vehicles, all the way to improved training for improved post-crash care, each aspect of road injuries must be targeted to efficiently effect change. And this spectrum of interventions will likely require the input, administration, and management by multiple sectors. Only by involving all relevant stakeholders can car accidents be significantly prevented – a goal with an ambitious target as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.