Many of us sit in the driver’s seat of a car every single day, whether for quick trips around town or lengthy commutes. We drive for business, pleasure and every imaginable reason in between. For better or worse, driving is part of America’s culture, and it’s such a basic modern skill that many Americans behave as though it’s as natural as breathing; something they can do it without thinking.
But that’s how crashes are caused. When we stop thinking about the fact that we are behind the wheel, and the magnitude of the problems that could arise if we stop paying attention, we put ourselves, our passengers and everyone around us at risk.
As a Denver car crash attorney, I see certain behaviors over and over in the accidents I investigate. At the risk of sounding like a nag, I think it’s important to remind people that they need to take driving seriously every time they get behind the wheel.
Here are the top five most common – and most dangerous – mistakes drivers make. I hope that you use this list to check yourself on your common driving behaviors and correct any driving habits that could be placing you or others in danger.
Top 5 Reasons for Denver Car Crashes
1. Distracted Driving
Distraction while driving is one of the most common and most dangerous mistakes that drivers make today, and the problem is only getting worse. It used to be that the worst distraction was when a French fry fell on the floor, or a toddler had a fit in the back seat. Today, our mobile gadgets provide a world of distraction at the tap of a finger, and too many people make the mistake of using mobile devices while behind the wheel. Texting-while-driving has emerged as a primary culprit in many Denver car accident cases that I see because so many people neglect to wait until they stop the car before checking and responding to messages. The danger is especially high for young and inexperienced drivers, but texting is an unsafe activity for every driver, no matter how experienced.
For the past few years, I have been deeply involved in trying to pass hands-free driving legislation in Colorado. We’ve made progress, but we still have goals that will make our roads safer.
Other types of distraction afflict drivers, as well. Talking to passengers, playing with a stereo, looking for road signs, or taking your eyes off the road for any reason can be dangerous. It’s common for distracted drivers to believe they are paying more attention to the road than they really are. Don’t take the chance; keep your eyes on the road and the traffic around you.
2. Driving While Tired
Driving while tired is actually very similar to driving while distracted. Many people don’t realize how tired they are, and even if they’re aware they are tired, they may not realize to what degree they are fatigued or how badly it is affecting their concentration.
The CDC states:
Falling asleep at the wheel is very dangerous but being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you don’t fall asleep. Drowsiness…
- Makes drivers less attentive.
- Slows reaction time.
- Affects a driver’s ability to make decisions.
The warning signs of drowsy driving include:
- Yawning or blinking frequently.
- Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven.
- Missing your exit.
- Drifting from your lane.
- Hitting a rumble strip.
With people getting busier all the time and sacrificing sleep to keep up with crazy work demands, driving while tired is not likely to disappear as a problem any time soon. Using caffeine, energy drinks or other stimulants to cover the gaps is not an adequate solution, either. The only way to feel – and be – truly rested is to get enough sleep. Otherwise, it’s best to avoid driving, especially when driving alone or for long distances because the hum of the road may lull you to sleep.
If you experience any of the warning signs of drowsy driving, pull over to a safe place and take a 15-20 minute nap or change drivers. According to the CDC, simply turning up the radio or opening the window are not effective ways to keep you alert.
Driving over the speed limit might be the most common illegal activity in the United States, and one of the most dangerous. While speed limits and laws vary from state to state, every state has laws and regulations for controlling speed, and for good reason. Driving too fast is a factor in many accidents, even where it is not the primary factor. If you make a mistake while driving, such as switching lanes without looking for other cars, and you are also speeding, the results could be catastrophic.
Driving too fast for the road, traffic or weather conditions means that you are cutting short the time you need to react if something unexpected happens. And let’s face it, with Denver’s growing population, something unexpected is always happening on Denver’s roads. Avoid getting into a Denver car crash by controlling your speed.
4. Reckless Driving
This is one of my biggest pet peeves. We all make mistakes behind the wheel and often they do not result in tragic outcomes. However, when people blatantly ignore laws and safety guidelines, and they cause accidents with injuries, I really get riled up.
Many different types of behaviors can fall under the category of reckless driving. For a lot of people, the phrase conjures up images of drag racing, high-speed police chases or other unusual situations. But there are everyday types of reckless driving that may not be as dramatic but are just as dangerous. Actions like running red lights, following other cars too closely or changing lanes rapidly and without adequate distance can all cause accidents. Failing to obey traffic laws and driving without sufficient distance “buffers” around your vehicle make it all the more likely that you will get into an accident.
5. Neglecting Maintenance
Does this one surprise you? You wouldn’t believe the number of mind-boggling accidents I see because people don’t properly maintain their cars. I’ve seen Denver accidents caused when spare tires bounce off the back of a car!
Being able to drive safely depends on having a car that can be driven safely, which makes regular maintenance important. Some aspects of proper maintenance have a direct effect on how a car handles, such as keeping tires inflated to the right pressure and changing tires when the old ones get too worn out. (Horrible accidents occur when tires suddenly blow.) Other maintenance is important for the other drivers on the road, such as making sure your turn signals and brake lights work. Still other types of maintenance help you keep your car running reliably, such as regular oil changes and tune-ups. Stay safe while driving by avoiding unexpected breakdowns with correct maintenance.
Let’s all do our part to keep Denver’s roads safe for everyone: Drive safely! And if you happen to be in a car accident that is someone else’s fault, call me as soon as possible.