More than 40,000 people in the U.S. died in car crashes in 2018 and many of these fatal motor vehicle accidents were preventable. Drivers can reduce their risk by knowing the dangers and avoiding behaviors that put them in harm’s way. The more drivers know, the more they can prepare themselves and their vehicles for a safe journey.
Accidents in the United States
2018 was the third year in a row that more than 40,000 people died on US roads. Over 4.5 million people suffered serious injuries in car crashes that same year.
While the number of fatalities nationwide declined by 1% from 2017, Nevada saw a 9% increase in crash deaths. The number of U.S. crash deaths is 14% higher than it was four years ago.
Causes of Fatal Accidents
Approximately 30% of motor vehicle fatalities that happened over the past decade were caused by speeding. The higher the speed, the greater the risk of a fatal accident. Of accidents where speed is involved, just under 50% occur at speeds of more than 55 mph, while roughly 27% occur at speeds between 40-50 mph and 25% at speeds of less than 35 mph.
Additionally, drunk driving causes one fatality every 53 minutes. That is 28 people per day. DUI is a factor in just over 29% of fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Distracted driving is estimated to cause just over 1 million accidents per year. It is a factor in about 16% of motor vehicle accidents. While public information campaigns warn of the dangers of talking on the phone or texting while driving, many people still aren’t getting the message that it is just not safe to engage in these behaviors. Of those who die in accidents involving cell phone distractions, approximately 39% are between the ages of 20-29, 13% are between the ages of 15-19, and 19% are between the ages of 30-39.
Weather is a factor in roughly 20% of motor vehicle accidents. It is estimated that the weather is a contributing factor in nearly 450,000 personal injuries and 6,000 fatalities each year. Wet pavement is the most common cause of weather-related accidents, followed by rain which also reduces visibility, and snow/sleet that can reduce visibility and diminish traction.
Finally, running red lights is a risky behavior that is easily avoided. Red light fatalities remain high and just under 2 people per day die when drivers run red lights. In many cases, red-light running is linked to other risky behaviors including speeding, drunk driving, and distracted driving.
Staying Safe Because Complacency Kills
The best way to avoid becoming a statistic is to drive defensively. Making sure that everyone in the vehicle buckles up is the first step every driver should take. Drivers should also avoid distractions such as talking on the phone, texting, flipping through radio dials, or excessively adjusting environmental control settings. At all times, drivers should remain alert for traffic conditions, changes to the weather, posted signs, and the behaviors of drivers in their immediate vicinity.
Drivers should also make sure their vehicles are in good condition. This includes regularly checking oil/antifreeze levels, making sure windshield wiper fluid reservoirs are filled, and replacing tires when the tread wears thin. It is also vital to take care of any steering or engine control problems as these can fail suddenly causing the driver to lose control over the vehicle’s direction. Further, drivers should always heed recalls on their vehicles because failing to do so is negligent behavior that puts themselves, their passengers, and other motorists in danger.
Additionally, drivers should never get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Since 1982, DUI fatalities have declined by 48% in the overall population, and 80% in drivers under the age of 21. Even so, that is little comfort to the just under 11,000 people who died in drunk driving collisions in 2017. Of those who were killed in DUI crashes, 68% of offending drivers had a BAC of .15 or greater.
Finally, drivers should avoid driving while fatigued and should never get distracted behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is a factor in nearly 2% of crashes while distractions are involved in 8%. The fatality rate from these behaviors remains high and these are the two motor vehicle accident causes that are easily preventable.
Perhaps these recommendations have begun to make a difference. In the first six months of 2019, national crash deaths have declined by about 3% from 2018 estimates. From January through June, about 18,580 motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists lost their lives in car accidents. Non-fatal, medically consulted injuries from crashes also declined in the first half of the year. In Nevada, the number of crash deaths decreased by about 22% in the first part of 2019.