Today’s cars are safer than ever, with lots of features that warn the driver of potentially dangerous situations. Proper maintenance will keep your car running safely and hassle-free, however, driver error causes more than 93 percent of fatal crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
That means drivers are the weakest link in safety on our roads and highways.
Keeping our roads safe
Most crashes that cause death and major injuries are preventable. Of the estimated 38,800 traffic fatalities on American roads last year, more than 75 percent were caused by drunk and impaired drivers, distraction, and speeding.
For drunk driving, there’s a simple solution — don’t drink and drive. However, medications, including many over-the-counter drugs, can cause serious impairment as well. Drivers should make themselves aware of the possible effects of medicines they take and, if at all unsure, make other arrangements for transportation or have someone else drive.
Distraction is also a leading factor in crashes. We all know the dangers of texting while driving, and most states now have laws banning texting or talking on a cellphone while driving. There are many other things that can cause distraction, however, and drivers need to be aware of and avoid them.
Tuning the radio, adjusting the GPS system, eating or drinking, or fixing your make-up can cause you to take your eyes off the road for precious seconds. At highway speeds, a car travels the length of a football field in about four seconds, so imagine driving with your eyes shut for that long. You can go out of your lane into oncoming traffic, or off the road and into a ditch, tree, or a pedestrian.
Having other people in the car can also be a big distraction. This is especially true for teen drivers, who have less experience behind the wheel, which is why many states have graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws that prohibit teens from driving with underage passengers.
Another safety risk many overlook is speeding. It can get you a ticket, a hefty fine, and points on your license, but speeding can also kill — it’s a factor in 27 percent of fatal crashes. Obey speed limits and slow down even more in poor weather conditions.
Smart decisions when you get behind the wheel can help assure you arrive safely.