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Two Cars Hitting Each Other on Road

Avoiding Automobile Accidents

Dennis C. Hogan June 21, 2022

Whether you have an accident is more than half in your control. The mistakes that other drivers make on the road may be something that your diligence cannot overcome. However, your ability to react when another driver makes a mistake and the risks that you create are in your control. If you are alert to the risks other drivers create and reduce the risks you create then you can reduce the chances that you will be in an accident. This is why distraction is the most common cause of accidents. Distractions can be entirely in your head or distractions can be something that is going on in the vehicle which is not related to driving. Distractions can be outside the vehicle causing the driver to look in the wrong direction. 

Alertness to a hazard is referred by insurance adjusters and plaintiff’s attorneys with the term of art, ‘Lookout.” As in, ‘were you looking out for hazards so that you could avoid them.’ This factor along with Speed, Evasive Action, and Point of Impact make up the factors that help determine who is at fault for an automobile accident. Distraction prevents a driver from having the proper “look out” because the driver never or is late to notice a visible hazard.

Of the distractions that are in your head, driving while intoxicated is the most dangerous. Drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, and pain killers are some of the substances that people use and then try to navigate the use of an automobile. The drugs change a person's perception of the world. I have heard marijuana users claim they are better drivers when they are high. That sounds like a pack of non-sense to me. Unless they are violently out of control when sober the decreased reaction time from using marijuana is not going to be made up for by being “laid back.” Driving is a process of making hundreds of decisions per second. Making the wrong decision just once or taking too much time to decide can cause a car wreck.

I am as impress by the many things my smart phone can do as anyone else. But all of us need to be told to put the screen away while driving. Attempting to manipulate the functions on the phone screen while simultaneously making the driving decisions is a recipe for an accident. Your car moves into a new situation every second. The faster the car is going the more different the new situation. The chances of something dangerous popping up increase based on the distance you move, which is based on your speed. So if a message on your phone causes you to stop and think, it takes away the fractions of a second you may need to assess a situation and take corrective action.

We have all seen the signs along the highway encouraging us to take a break at a rest area while making a long trip from our state through other states. We know that a long drive can bore us and cause fatigue. However, also causing fatigue is the challenges of a regular day. An eight hour shift after a poor night’s sleep can cause our brain to have a dull reaction to the hazards of the road. Worse yet, with the sun hanging low when we feel sleepy we can be lulled right to sleep while behind the wheel.

Also, it is very common to have accidents during times of great stress. The insurance company I worked for reported a study indicating that going through a divorce is the most common life event reported at the time of an accident. That is not the only life event that will cause stress and distraction. The death of a loved one is upsetting enough to distract your mind from driving.

Outside your head but inside your car we can be distracted by our passengers. Young licensed drivers are not allowed to have more than one other young person in their car in the first months of having their license. Talking, laughing and general horse play are a distraction. When the skill of driving is still something new then these distracts can be more of a problem. However, it is worthwhile to remember passenger can be a distraction for even experienced drivers. As the driver we should remind our passenger that we are only human and they have to keep their activities in the car at a ‘visiting the library’ level of noise in order to help with the cars safety.

Road construction throws up many new variables for a driver to notice and to which the driver must react. Any one of the new variables can distract a driver from another new obstacle that needs to be avoided. Therefore, drivers should slow down in construction areas to give themselves more time to see and react to what is new. A driver should also become more alert so that he more quickly sees the new obstacles and can avoid all problems.

To increasing your chances of a safe trip avoid those things that cause distraction in your head and be more aware when the distraction is external. If you are experiencing one of those events that is so upsetting that it will distract you, then accept the help that is offered to you and ask someone to drive you while you deal with it. Then at least you will have done your share in preventing an accident. 

Follow these tips to take care not to be distracted while driving. If you do have an accident you will be glad you can describe noticing the hazzard and how you attempted to avoid. Those two factors will play in your favor when weighing who is at fault. If someone has caused an accident then our legal serves are here to get you the compensation you deserve.