causes of accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that about 40,000 people die in car accidents in the United States every year. And every ten seconds, there is a new accident somewhere in the country. If you and your loved ones don’t want to wind up part of that statistic, it’s crucial to know what the top causes of auto accidents are and how to avoid them.

Distractions While Driving

Especially since the invention of the smartphone and other mobile devices that give you unlimited access to the Internet and text messaging, distractions while driving cause between 25 and 30 percent of all car accidents. These devices are not only to blame, however, as other causes of distracted driving include voice-on-voice contact on your cell phone, messing with the radio, talking too much to other passengers in the vehicle, managing children, “rubbernecking” when there’s an accident—some people even read a book while they are “sitting in traffic.”

In the state of Colorado, it is against the law for drivers to text, email, tweet or do anything other “posting” with mobile devices while driving. The law requires drivers to use speakerphones, headsets, earpieces and other hands-free devices if they need to talk on the phone. However, if you’re under 18, you can’t use a cell phone at all while you’re in the driver’s seat.

Drunk Driving

The Colorado Department of Transportation says that more than 26,000 people are arrested for DUI each year, and more than 150 people are killed in alcohol-related accidents. According to DMV.org, the state of Colorado has a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving for underage drivers. If you’re under 21 years old and are caught with alcohol (even if you’re not driving), or you have a BAC of .02 percent, your license will be revoked immediately. Even if you are of age to drink, always have a sober, designated driver ready because even one beer can impair your reaction time.

Driver Fatigue

There are more than 100,000 accidents caused by drowsy or fatigued driving a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fatigued driving occurs most often between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. (which is the usual time for people to be sleeping). While you’re driving, if you notice you’re yawning frequently, having trouble keeping your eyes open, or misjudging traffic situations or seeing things, it’s time to pull over and rest. Take a break from driving every two hours, avoid long drives after you’ve been working all day, and share driving responsibilities when you’re on a long road trip.

Speeding and Aggressive Driving

In Colorado, the maximum speed limit is generally 75 mph for rural interstates and 65 mph for urban interstates. These speed limits are set for a reason. The faster you drive your vehicle, the less time you’ll have to react to a hazard, and the worse the damage will be upon impact—whether it is from debris, another car or a pedestrian. Staying well within the speed limit is imperative to preventing these accidents.

Though speeding is a form of aggressive driving, there are other forms of aggressive driving to be aware of as well—flashing lights at drivers when you’re aggravated at them, tailgating, frequently changing lanes, and even deliberately blocking another driver from changing lanes. To avoid another aggressive driver (or to not become aggressive yourself) try to keep your distance from other drivers on the road and do not pass unless you have to.

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Weather

Weather is obviously something you can’t control. If you’re confronted with inclement weather while on the road, it could turn extremely dangerous very quickly. Heavy rain or snow, fog and even high winds or sandstorms make driving difficult. If you’re aware in advance that bad weather is looming, try to reschedule your appointments and stay indoors to wait it out until it passes.

If you absolutely must drive (e.g., having to go to work), leave extra space between the front of your car and the car in front of you in case you need to stop quickly. And, if you can’t see clearly, pull off on the side of the road until conditions improve. Nothing is more important than your safety and the safety of the other drivers on the road.