Being part of a car accident can be scary, traumatic, and lead to severe injuries. When people are involved in traffic accidents, it can lead to life-changing consequences for victims and their families.
There are around 13 car accidents on U.S. roadways every minute. In 2021, around 42,915 people died in car accidents, which was a 10.5% increase from the year before. In 2020, around 4.8 million people were seriously injured in vehicle collisions. In 2021, pedestrian deaths went up by 13% since the previous year.
While you might not be able to completely avoid roadway risks, knowing what you’re up against can help you be a more vigilant, defensive, and prepared driver.
The following are six of the key risks that people face when they’re on U.S. roadways.
1. Teen Drivers
Certain demographics of drivers are more dangerous than others. Teenagers are the most dangerous age group in the country. Drivers between the ages of 16-19 are more likely than any other age group to be involved in collisions.
While teen drivers make up just around 5% of licensed drivers, in 2020, they accounted for 8.5% of deadly crashes.
Typically, the crash rate per 100,000 drivers goes down as people age. Then, when people hit the age of 75, it tends to start trending upward.
2. Drivers Under the Influence
Unfortunately, despite the fact that it’s illegal and can be deadly, people still do drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can impair the ability to drive as well.
Drunk driving-related deaths occur every 52 minutes in America. There are around 10,000 deaths annually because of drunk driving accidents. These fatalities make up around 1.3 of all traffic-related deaths.
Drinking and driving costs annually more than $44 billion in death and damages. At the end of 2020, an estimated 26.8% of drivers seriously injured or killed in accidents had alcohol in their bloodstream. The number of fatal accidents that involved alcohol was up 9% in 2020 compared to 2019, despite drivers traveling 13% fewer miles.
The months of June, July, and August are when drunk driving accidents are most likely to occur, and nearly 70% of deaths related to alcohol happen at night.
If you see someone near you on the roads which seems like they’re intoxicated, you should make sure your seatbelt is on and keep your distance. Contact 911 if you see someone driving erratically or as if they’re under the influence of anything.
Don’t try to pass someone you suspect is intoxicated because you don’t know how they’ll react. Stay as far back as possible, and don’t try to interact with them or interfere.
3. Severe Weather
There are situations where it may be unavoidable for you to drive in bad weather. When it’s raining, storming, or the conditions are otherwise less than optimal, take things slowly.
It’s harder when the roadways are slick to stop or control your vehicle. If you increase your following distance, you’ll have more time to stop for vehicles that might be ahead of you.
If you see water, you should turn around rather than try to go through it. Just 12 inches of water can carry away most vehicles, and around two feet of water that’s rushing can carry away the majority of SUVs and trucks. The most common type of drowning related to floods occurs when someone tries to drive their vehicle through flood water.
Keep an emergency roadside kit in your car in case you run into bad weather, and check road conditions and traffic before you head out on road trips.
4. Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving can affect you directly, or you might be sharing the road with drivers who are tired. Drowsy driving can occur because of actual fatigue, but also sleep disorders, the result of medications, alcohol, or shift work.
When you’re tired and trying to drive, your reaction time will be slower, your decision-making is affected, and you’re less able to pay attention to the road.
Around 1 in 25 adults say they’ve fallen asleep while driving in the past 30 days, according to the CDC.
In 2017, drowsy driving was responsible for around 91,000 total crashes. Those crashes led to 50,000 injuries and almost 800 fatalities. Even with these high numbers, a lot of experts feel they’re underestimated, and up to 6,000 deadly crashes each year may be due to tired drivers.
Early warning signs of drowsiness to watch for in yourself or others behind the wheel include yawning, frequently blinking, or having trouble remembering the past miles you’ve just driven. Drifting from your lane, hitting rumble strips, and missing your exit are also warning signs of driving while drowsy.
5. Aggressive Driving
You may see signs of aggressive driving in yourself, or it could be something you experience from strangers on the roadway. Regardless, it’s dangerous and yet, unfortunately, very common. According to AAA, almost 80% of drivers say they experience significant aggression, road rage, or anger behind the wheel.
Aggressive driving behaviors can include speeding, tailgating, and cutting in front of other drivers to then slow down. Aggressive driving can include weaving in traffic, changing lanes without providing a signal, running red lights, and blocking cars trying to change lanes or pass.
Road rage is extremely aggressive driving. Examples include throwing things, cursing, making rude or obscene gestures, or forcing drivers off the road.
6. Construction Zones
Passing through construction zones is dangerous. There’s a lot of signage that can be confusing, plus the lanes are narrow, there are moving equipment, workers, and many other hazards. The speed limits are often reduced in construction zones, which can raise the risk of rear-ending accidents. Drivers might also try to beat other traffic by driving on the shoulder, putting other drivers and workers in danger.
Accidents in construction zones often lead to significant injuries or deaths. If the proper cautionary steps and warning signs are used in a construction zone, the contractor and the government agency in charge of the project may be held responsible.