While being involved in a car accident is never a good thing, once you become a parent, being involved in a car accident can be a truly terrifying experience. In addition to worrying about your own injuries, you are naturally extremely worried about the safety of your children. Unfortunately, auto accidents are not all that rare, with one auto accident occurring every 60 seconds across the globe. Each year in the United States, nearly 3 million people1 suffer minor to severe injuries from a car accident, with about 43,000 auto accident fatalities1.
In fact, motor vehicle accidents are one of the world’s leading causes of death—a fact which has prompted auto manufacturers to continually make safety improvements to new vehicles. Perhaps you are wondering what issues most often factor in to auto accidents? In most cases, these factors are preventable, falling under the “human error” category, and include:
- Distracted driving;
- Impaired driving;
- Exceeding the speed limit;
- Reckless driving;
- Inclement weather;
- Ignoring traffic signals;
- Night driving/low visibility;
- Teen drivers, and
Drivers who attempt to multi-task while driving is an ever-increasing problem across the nation. We eat, fiddle with the radio or GPS, turn around to see what the children are doing in the back seat, talk on our cell phones, text, talk to adult passengers, or simply daydream when we should be paying attention to the road and the other drivers around us. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving may well be the number one cause of auto accidents, with 3,477 auto accident fatalities and 391,000 injuries from auto accidents attributed to distracted driving in 2015.2 It is important to recognize the many types of distracted driving as well as to put into practice tips to help you avoid distracted driving—including eating your meals and snacks before you get behind the wheel, and placing your phone in a location which will prevent you from reaching it.
Cell Phone Use as a Factor in Distracted Driving
It is hard to imagine any driver who doesn’t understand just how dangerous cell phone use is when the driver’s attention should be fully on the road and other drivers. Despite knowing the dangers of cell phone use, it is estimated that the auto accidents of as many as 1.6 million Americans each year involves a cell phone, either as a primary cause or a secondary cause3. Further, approximately 330,000 auto accidents caused by texting while driving, resulted in severe injuries in 2015.3Perhaps most alarming, texting and driving is about six times more likely to result in an accident than driving while impaired.3
Children in the Car—More Dangerous Than You Might Think!
Perhaps because it happens so gradually, most parents are unaware of the extent to which they are distracted from the task of driving when children are in the vehicle. In fact, driving with children is not just slightly more dangerous—you are a whopping 12 times more likely to drive in a dangerous manner (which could potentially result in a serious accident) when there are children in the vehicle.4
One study found that over the course of a 16-minute trip, parents who had children in the vehicle with them spent three minutes and 22 seconds with their eyes off the road.4 Parents frequently turned around to interact with their children, spent significant blocks of time watching the children in the rearview mirror, and reached back into the back seat to pick up a bottle or pacifier, or to give children food and drinks.
Impaired drivers are responsible for about 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S., with alcohol being a factor in about one out of every three motor vehicle accidents.5 Despite the greater number of educational programs, an increase in public awareness and harsher penalties for those convicted of DUI, far too many impaired or intoxicated drivers remain on the roadways. A driver with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 or higher is seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash than a driver who has consumed no alcohol.5
Other Factors Associated with Auto Accidents
Aside from distracted driving and impaired driving, blatant disregard for traffic rules and traffic safety causes many auto accidents. We are a nation of tailgaters, speed demons and reckless drivers who ignore traffic signals. Teen drivers are also a factor in the number of auto accidents. A teen’s inexperience can lead to serious accidents—in 2015, 2,333 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were killed in an auto accident. This translates into six teens in that age group dying each day from motor vehicle injuries.6And, even though 94 percent of teens understand the potential consequences of texting and driving, more than a third admit they do it anyway.3
As you can see, there are many causes of auto accidents. Once you are equipped with all the facts about auto accidents, you can take definitive steps to lessen your chances of being involved in an auto accident and to keep your family safe.