Though driving fatalities in the United States have declined since the 1970s, driving on U.S. roadways remains a dangerous and sometimes deadly activity. Car crashes cause thousands of deaths annually, with nearly 33,000 fatalities in 2013 alone.
While a huge variety of factors can cause car accidents, a handful of driving behaviors are largely responsible for the most deadly crashes. Here are the top most risky behaviors that kill motorists every year:
Driving Under the Influence
Be it drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications, substances like these influence how our bodies and brains react to stimuli. The result? Impaired judgment, slower reaction times, and inability to drive safely. The numbers are indisputable– every day, almost 28 people die in a crash due to an impaired driver. And, if you drive drunk, your chances of being involved in a fatal accident quadruple.
Driving while Drowsy
Driving while drowsy may seem innocuous when compared to driving while intoxicated, but studies suggest otherwise. Sleepiness, like drunkenness, leads to slower reaction times. If you completely fall asleep at the wheel, the consequences are obviously severe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates deaths related to drowsy driving at 1,550 every year. If you catch yourself frequently blinking, having trouble focusing, or yawning repeatedly, pull over. Taking a quick nap break could save a life.
Driving too fast not only makes accidents more likely, but it also makes accidents more severe. In fact, for every 10 mph over 50 mph, your risk of death in a car crash doubles. Studies show that a speed reduction of only 0.62 mph could cut back road crashed by 2–3%, so going a whole five miles per hour slower could have a significant safety benefit.
While car crash fatalities have lowered in the last several decades, increasing dependence on cell phones has created more opportunities for distracted driving. In 2015 car accident fatalities rose 7.2%, the largest increase in 50 years. This rise was partially attributed to distracted driving. Avoid texting, eating, or making calls without hands-free technology to help yourself focus on the task of driving.
Not Wearing a Seat Belt
Finally, one of the most dangerous things a driver or passenger can do is fail to put on a seat belt. In 2017, nearly half of those who died in a crash were not buckled. Air bags can keep bodies from feeling the brunt force of an accident, but they are meant to be used in conjunction with seat belts. Such a simple action saves thousands of lives every year, so don’t forget to buckle up!
Nearly 12 million trucks, rail cars, locomotives, and other vessels move goods over the transportation network, and civilian commuters add millions more to the total numbers of vehicles on roadways. Today, there are one billion bicycles on the road; there are nearly half as many cars. Unfortunately, bicyclists are especially at risk from these unsafe driving behaviors, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep our roadways safe.
With so many motorists, crashes are inevitable. However, by avoiding the above behaviors and taking a driver safety course, you can help make crashes a less deadly.