As a driver, sometimes you hop in behind the wheel and go into auto-pilot, especially as an experienced driver. Yet, road dangers lurk in a variety of forms out on the road.
It might surprise you to learn that on average, there are about 10 million car accidents a year across the United States. In fact, the average driver is likely to have an accident 3 to 4 times over the course of their life or almost every 18 over the course of the driver’s life.
Is it people who are practicing bad driving habits or being reckless out on the road? What is causing all these accidents? Are they avoidable with more care, or is it just part of the risks of going out on the road?
Read on to learn more about the road dangers you might when you get behind the wheel of your car.
Startling Road Statistics
It should be every driver’s goal to get behind the wheel and drive to be safe on the roads. Yet, somehow the statistics on driving don’t connect to that ultimate goal.
The good news is that cars keep getting safer. Manufacturers are working to create vehicles with better safety standards for drivers. This is likely one of the reasons that while the number of accidents is huge, the number of fatal accidents has declined in recent years.
Based on the number of accidents happening, this might not surprise you, although most people would argue they’re a safe driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that 2 of every 3 drivers will be involved in an injury accident over the course of their life.
Statistics show that the number one cause of most accidents is speed. This can mean the driver is going too fast for the speed limit. It can also mean the driver was going too fast for the conditions.
Remember, taking driver’s education classes, back when you studied the rules of the road. You learned all the particulars of driving laws. Now, some 40% of drivers would fail a written driving test, studies show.
While the number of fatal accidents has decreased, the number of seriously injured is daunting. Approximately 5,000 people suffer car accidents daily that cause them some form of permanent damage as a result of the accident.
If you have a teen driver, it might not surprise you to learn they are the highest risk group for potential accidents. The first year of a teen’s driving life is the most dangerous. This is surely the reason all 50 states in the US and the District of Columbia have some form of a graduated driver’s license program.
Finally, 60% of all traffic accident deaths are a result of road rage.
Types of Dangers
Cars are safer than ever before, and people are wearing their seat belts. Children are spending more years secured in car seats and booster seats. So, what’s causing all these accident statistics?
Let’s take a look at the list of most common road hazards, what’s causing them and how to prevent yourself and your passengers from being victims of them.
Let’s be honest, no matter where you live across the US, you have roads with potholes, and they are the bane of every driver on the road. In fact, potholes cost drivers a whopping $3 billion (yes, billion) a year in damages to their vehicles.
Can you imagine the number of insurance claims made each year for damage to cars because the roads are in bad shape? The average driver spends about $300 on pothole damage to their car.
Wondering who had to count this, but there are an estimated 55 million potholes across the 4 million miles of US roads.
Sure the potholes are annoying and can cause damage. They can also cause accidents when you don’t see them coming.
To avoid accidents and damage to your car from potholes, drive defensively, always looking out for them. If you’re in an area of road known for potholes, drive slowly in anticipation of the road conditions.
A tire blowout happens when suddenly the air in the tire blows. This can almost sound like an explosion under your car when it happens because of its suddenness.
A tire blowout happens because there is:
- Too little air pressure in the tire
- Extreme heat
- Impact damage (think about all those potholes)
- Overloading a vehicle with too much weight
A blowout can be especially scary and dangerous if it happens as you’re going down the road at a higher rate of speed. It can cause your car to swerve severely and lose control of the vehicle. If you have a blowout, you want to slow your vehicle and get to the side of the road as quickly as possible.
How can you avoid a blowout? Maintain your tires; make sure they are in good condition with the proper amount of air in them. Be mindful of how much weight you’re carrying in your vehicle, and don’t overload it.
3. Car Accident
Car accidents are probably one of the more obvious road dangers you’ll face as a driver. A car accident can come as a result of many of the things on this list.
They can happen in so many different ways, and it’s the reason drivers always have to be driving defensively and be constantly aware of their surroundings.
A car accident can happen in a split second from the slightest moment of distracted driving. An oncoming vehicle swerves when you’re not looking up. A dangerous road can have a sudden curve you didn’t see coming.
A large number of accidents can result from being stuck in traffic. Drivers get frustrated or even more distracted. They go slow, and so they start to look down at their phones, for example.
Since car accidents can happen in a split second and have lasting consequences, you always need to be aware. They can also cost you money. Insurance rates could go up. On the flip side, having a good driving record can save you insurance premiums too.
4. Objects Hitting the Windshield
If you’ve ever been driving down the highway and suddenly had a bird hit your windshield, you know how completely terrifying it can be. A driver’s natural reflex would be to flinch and jerk away. You could swerve into an oncoming vehicle and actually become a road danger.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to have things hit the windshield on your vehicle. You could get hit by:
- Other animals
- Road debris
While you can’t really prevent this type of road danger, you want to be mindful of how you respond. Make every effort to keep your vehicle under control so you don’t cause even greater risk to yourself, your vehicle, or other drivers.
5. Rollover Accidents
Rollover accidents occur when the center of gravity of the vehicle shifts and the tires come off the ground, and the car rolls. It might surprise you to learn that nearly 85% of rollover fatalities actually involve a single vehicle.
A rollover accident can happen in a split second. Often a car will swerve suddenly and hit the side of the road causing its center of gravity to change.
Of the most serious of car crashes, rollover accidents only account for about 3% of them. However, when a car rolls over, these accidents account for 35% of accident fatalities.
6. Speeding Car
As was previously mentioned, speed is the highest contributor to car accidents. Speed limits are set by local and state officials based on the type of road, the number of travelers, and the road conditions.
When a car is traveling at a high rate of speed, the accident that happens, as a result, can be even worse than other types of car accidents. The car’s impact will be more forceful, and it takes longer for the vehicle to slow down or even stop.
Speeding cars can lose control more easily too. Not only can they hit other cars and pedestrians, but they can also cause more significant property damage because of their speed.
7. Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is a profound road danger both for the driver who’s impaired and everyone around them. Across the US, 28 people die every day in drunk driving crashes. If you do the math, that’s a fatality rate of a person who dies as a result of a drunk driving crash every 52 minutes.
The most astounding part of this particular kind of road danger is its complete preventability. Alcohol impairs a driver’s reaction times and ability to make sound driving decisions. No driver should ever get behind the wheel after consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol.
8. Texting Accidents
More and more drivers are relying on their cell phones for communication. This means grabbing them while driving and attempting to text while driving.
41% of the accidents that happen during the day involve a driver using a cell phone while the car is moving. Of fatal crashes in 2018, 349 of those crashes for young drivers involved a cell phone.
There’s no way to argue the impact a cell phone has causing distracted driving. Many cars have hands-free capabilities now. But the cell phone remains a distraction just by the fact you’re doing something besides completely focusing on the driving.
9. Emergency Vehicle Accidents
Just by the nature of what they do, emergency vehicles are more at risk. They are often sitting at accident scenes. Or they are traveling at higher speeds to get to an emergent situation.
Emergency medical vehicles seem to be at higher risk than other first responders. Around 6,500 ambulance accidents happen across the US each year. 60% to 70% of ambulance and fire accidents happen while they are being used for emergency purposes.
Not only is this a risk for the first responders who handle these rigs, but it’s also a risk for other drivers. Drivers who see emergency vehicles attempting to get to an emergency site should immediately pull to the side of the road allowing emergency vehicles easy, traffic-free access.
10. Accidents With Animals
Animals also create a road danger for drivers. Animals, like deer, for example, who suddenly run in front of a moving car are a real danger for drivers.
Just like when something hits your windshield, it’s hard not to have a reflex reaction to an animal running in front of your vehicle. You don’t want to hit them or have them hit you.
Drivers going through driver’s education are actually taught to attempt not to swerve to avoid hitting an animal, despite what your instincts want you to do. When you swerve in your vehicle, you run the risk of losing control of the car, hitting another vehicle, or hitting another obstacle along the road.
Ultimately, you want to maintain control of your vehicle, even if it means hitting the animal.
11. Trash in the Road
Unfortunately, this is another road danger that sometimes can’t be avoided. Like animals or other objects flying at you, it can be hard to resist swerving. You definitely want to, though, as swerving can mean you could lose control and face even greater danger.
12. Objects Falling or Being Dropped From an Overpass
This is a sad reality for drivers. The risk that another individual might opt to drop an object from an overpass while drivers are going by is a huge risk for those drivers. It’s also illegal for the person to throw things off of an overpass.
Much like other objects flying at your windshield, the natural reaction might be to flinch and swerve. This can cause you to lose control of your vehicle and have bigger issues as a result.
13. Construction Zones
Construction zones are a frustrating reality of our millions of miles of roads. Construction zones cause issues in a number of ways.
The road conditions can change. For example, you might need to drive on more narrow lanes or even lanes on a different side of the road. Speed limits can change too.
Often there’s heavy construction equipment in construction zones and workers too. All these can be distractions for drivers too.
The most important thing about a construction zone is to slow down and pay attention to posted signs and directions of road crews to avoid a potential accident.
14. Snow or Ice
Winter driving offers up a plethora of road dangers, including snowy and icy road conditions. Remember, as a driver; you need to adjust your driving for the conditions. Don’t assume you can normally drive during bad weather.
Another issue with snow and ice is when it flies off another vehicle towards your vehicle. It would help if you always were careful to clean off your vehicle of snow and ice completely to avoid being a risk to other drivers.
15. Uneven Pavement
Uneven payment is more of a risk than you might realize. Sure, it might feel like a bump or when you’re driving. In fact, uneven pavement can cause your steering wheel to move. Your tires could go off an uneven surface, causing you to lose control of the vehicle. Uneven pavement can be a road danger to your vehicles, too, causing damage as your car moves across the uneven surface.
16. Road Signs
There are a number of ways road signs can become road dangers. Imagine if a road sign like a stop sign is missing, and cars travel through an intersection without stopping when they should. Nonfunctioning traffic lights can also create a danger for drivers and pedestrians.
If you’re on a stretch of road that you don’t know and there are dangers ahead that aren’t marked properly, you can also be at risk. Imagine arriving at a sharp curve in the road at a higher rate of speed than is safe to navigate.
17. Weather Conditions
Aside from the snow and ice mentioned, other weather conditions can create problematic road conditions.
If you have ever tried driving in heavy rain, you know how difficult and disorienting it can be. Fog is another weather issue that can create road danger.
If you face troublesome weather conditions, the best way to drive safely is to slow down and adjust your driving for the conditions. If necessary, pull off the road and wait out the weather.
What You Should Do Following An Accident
Unfortunately, so many of these road dangers can lead to accidents. Being in a car accident is scary and can feel overwhelming. So, what should you do if you’re involved in a car accident?
First, you want to check to see if everyone involved is okay. You should alert emergency services right away, especially if there are injuries from the accident. Even if it appears everyone is okay, it’s smart to be checked out at the scene. Often adrenaline from the accident will mask certain symptoms.
Make every effort to stay calm. If the accident is minor and you’re able, pull off to the side of the road or get out of the way of traffic. You want to exchange information with everyone involved in the accident, making sure to get their insurance information. It’s smart if you’re able to snap some photos of the accident.
Even if there aren’t injuries, you should get the police involved, so there’s an official police report. Contact your auto insurance provider and make a claim.
Who Is Responsible Following an Accident or When There Are Damages?
If you’re involved in an accident, and there are damages or injuries, all involved will need to have contact with their insurance company. You will want a police report to identify who is at fault in the accident.
Whether the accident is between two vehicles, or the accident is a result of bad roads, malfunctioning stoplights, who or what’s at fault will need to be identified. Damages might need to be paid by:
- City or town
- Insurance company
- Other car or party
Any involved insurance companies will look at claims and identify who’s responsible for covering repairs and damages to vehicles or property.
Compensation for Road Dangers
When you make a claim on your insurance, you will be seeking compensation for damages as a result of an accident. Which insurance company covers the damages depends on who or what caused the accident. There could be damage to your vehicle, property damage, and injuries.
Compensation from an accident can be needed for a host of things, including:
- Medical Bills from injuries
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering as a result of the accident
- Vehicle damage
- Property damage
Depending on the severity of the accident and the number of damages and injuries, costs can add up quickly. You want to keep track of the impact the accident has on your life. You may need medical treatment, sometimes even long-term. You might have not only damages to your vehicle but also property in the vehicle.
If you were injured, you might have lost wages because you are unable to work. All these factors will have a cost attached to them that you’ll want compensation for as a result.
Tips for Avoiding Road Dangers While Out Driving
Road dangers can present themselves in many forms when you’re out on the road. Consider these tips to avoid potential road dangers as they arise:
- Keep eyes on the road, scanning for potential danger or issues
- Stay off the phone and don’t text and drive
- Keep radio sound down so you can hear emergency vehicle sounds oncoming
- Keep your headlights on all the time
- Slow down, remembering speed is the number one cause of accidents
- Keep a safe distance between vehicles
Using good defensive driving is key to keeping yourself safe.
Be Careful When Out on the Road, Danger Comes In Many Forms
The accessibility and convenience that comes with having a car far outweigh the potential of road danger. However, being aware of these road dangers can make you drive more defensively, make you more prepared, and help to keep you safe out on the road.
If you’re a victim of some kind of road danger, it’s important to have a good insurance company on your side. If you want to evaluate your insurance needs, we can help. Contact us today to discuss all your insurance needs.