As you drive around the St. Louis metro area, it is inevitable that you will see a street, intersection or spot on a highway littered with the telltale signs of a recent collision: broken glass and little pieces of twisted metal.
Those remnants of motor vehicle crashes don’t tell much of the story, such as how the wreck occurred, which driver was at fault, and whether anyone was injured or even killed in the crash.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), ever year in the U.S., there are more than 6.5 million traffic accidents, more than 2.7 million injuries and more than 36,000 injuries in those crashes.
One of the best ways to avoid being in a crash and becoming part of those statistics is to understand the causes of auto accidents.
Common causes of crashes
- Impaired driving: Unfortunately, drunk drivers and drugged drivers continue to cause tens of thousands of crashes each year, with far too many of those wrecks involving serious injuries or fatalities. Though most people understand the dangers of drunk driving, here are a few grim statistics about the extent of the problem: MADD says 57 percent of fatally injured drivers had alcohol or drugs in their systems – 17 percent had both. The organization also says about 800 people are injured per day in drunk driving crashes.
- Distracted driving: Many people wrongly assume that distracted driving refers only to drivers paying attention to their phones instead of to the road and traffic. While the term certainly applies to them, it also refers to inattention involving distractions such as music (both selection and listening), gazing at and turning to look at things or people inside or outside of the vehicle, eating, grooming, using in-dash multimedia touchscreens and so on. The National Safety Council estimates that 25 percent of all auto accidents involve distracted drivers using phones.
- Fatigued driving: Experts say that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), someone who has been awake for 18 hours straight experiences the same cognitive impairments as someone who has a .05 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). Unfortunately, truckers who are trying to meet deadlines too often stay behind the wheels of their 18-wheelers instead of getting needed rest. Fatigued driving is a major contributor to commercial truck crashes.
One more crash-contributing factor
Of course, speed shouldn’t be overlooked as a component of violent collisions involving injuries and fatalities. Impaired, distracted and fatigued drivers are all more likely to intentionally or unintentionally exceed speed limits.
According to a recent National Law Review article on crashes, the greater the speed of a vehicle, the greater the force and damage done at the moment of impact.
The first step in crash-prevention is to understand the common causes of wrecks. The second step is to put that knowledge to use to protect yourself, your passengers and those who are sharing St. Louis streets with you.