When the first automobile fatality occurred in London in 1896, the coroner remarked: “This must never happen again.” Since that time, over 25 million people have been involved in fatal vehicle-related accidents, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Despite the advancements in technology for vehicle safety, the number of fatalities due to auto accidents continues to rise with approximately 1.2 million people dying yearly on the world’s roads. These figures are already dismal, but it gets worse says a report by WHO and the World Bank. The number of people killed in auto-related accidents is expected to rise by 65 percent by the year 2020.
What’s causing all of these accidents? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the leading cause of death among people aged 3 to 33 is not related to any defaulted safety features in the vehicles, but rather the inattention and preoccupation of the drivers themselves. Inattentive, drunk, and aggressive drivers are the greatest threat to the rest of us and we should take the necessary precautions to avoid them whenever possible.
Here are the top four leading causes of car accidents.
1. Distracted Drivers
According to Mark Edwards, Director of Traffic Safety at the American Automobile Association, somewhere between 25-50 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. are directly related to driver distraction as the root cause of automobile accidents.
These distractions include texting, rubbernecking, or slowing down to observe another accident, accounting for 16 percent of all distraction-related crashes. Cell phone use is a major concern with as many as 85 percent of the estimated 100 million cell-phone users talking on their phone regularly while driving. One study found that driving and talking on a cell phone at the same time quadruples the risk of crashing. Other common driver distractions include:
- Driver fatigue (12 percent)
- Looking at scenery (10 percent)
- Other passengers or children (9 percent)
- Adjusting the radio or CD player (7 percent)
- Reading the newspaper, books, maps, or other documents (less than 2 percent)
2. Driver Fatigue
According to the U.S. National Traffic Safety Administration, driver fatigue accounts for about 100,000 accidents every year in the United States, with the greatest risk between the hours of 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. when our circadian rhythms tell our bodies it’s time for sleep.
Fatigue drivers experience heavy eyelids, frequent yawning, a vehicle that drifts over road lines, fluctuating vehicle speed, misjudging traffic situations, seeing things “jump out” on the road, feeling fidgety or irritable, and daydreaming.
3. Drunk Driving
Drunk driving in Canada continues to be a leading cause of crashes despite the increased legislation on fines, driver suspensions, and possible jail time, up to 10 years if they cause bodily harm. On July 2, 2008, new Criminal Code provisions on impaired driving came into force in Canada, which gave police better tools to detect and investigate alcohol and drug-impaired driving. These changes increase the maximum sentence to life if the driver causes death and to a maximum 10-year sentence if they cause bodily harm.
Between 1987 to 2008 the percentages of fatalities declined, but there have been virtually no further declines in these numbers over the past ten years, and in fact, they have increased somewhat over the past four years.
4. Aggressive Driving
- Transport Canada defines aggressive driving as speeding, running red lights, tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, and failing to yield the right of way, among other behaviours.
- Flashing lights at other drivers because you’re irritated at them.
- Aggressive or rude gestures.
- Deliberately preventing another driver from moving their vehicle.
- Verbal abuse.
- Physical assaults.
- Disregarding traffic signals.
- Changing lanes frequently or in an unsafe manner.
Collision statistics reveal that 27% of fatalities and 19% of serious injuries involve speeding and:
- 40% of speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes were 16 to 24 years of age; most drivers killed in speed-related crashes were the ones speeding;
- 80% of young adult passengers who were killed in a speeding crash were in the vehicle with a speeding driver of similar age;
- Single-vehicle crashes accounted for more than 50% of speeding deaths and serious injuries;
- One in three speeding drivers involved in a fatal crash had been drinking;
- Urban roads at night are the primary location for fatal crashes involving young adult drivers since urban areas have a high concentration of bars, restaurants and other places where alcohol is served.