In 2021, traffic fatalities in the U.S. hit a 16-year high, with an estimated 42,915 people dying in motor vehicle traffic accidents in that year alone. This represents an increase of 10.5% from 2020 and is both the largest annual percentage increase in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the highest number of fatalities since 2005.
In the U.S., road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people aged 1 to 54. Fatal accidents may occur with a single vehicle or involve two or more vehicles. Some traffic accidents are immediately fatal, while others cause injuries that lead to death hours, days, or weeks later.
While the numbers may be staggering, it’s also important to remember that behind every statistic is a tragic loss of life and a family that has been left behind. Understanding why there are so many fatal car accidents can help you avoid being in one yourself. Here’s a look at some of the leading causes of fatal vehicle accidents.
The Leading Causes of Fatal Vehicle Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 traffic fatalities were caused by distracted driving in 2020 alone. While texting and driving laws aim to reduce incidents caused by this dangerous activity, there are many other distractions to avoid as well.
This includes eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, talking on the phone, fiddling with your stereo, and anything else that takes your attention away from the road. Always keep in mind that you cannot drive safely unless you’re giving the road your full, undivided attention.
Driving at high speeds isn’t just risky for the driver. It also creates a danger for everyone else on the road. In 2020, there were 11,258 speeding-related traffic fatalities, accounting for 29% of all traffic fatalities.
While it’s totally normal to be in a rush to get where you’re going, remember that speed limits are there for a reason. The faster your vehicle is going, the more likely it is that there will be fatalities if you crash.
Driving Under the Influence
About every 45 minutes, one person dies in a drunk driving-related incident. That’s 32 people per day and 11,654 per year. Even a little bit of alcohol can impair your thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination. As your blood alcohol level rises, the negative effects increase. Not only is drinking and driving illegal, but it’s also stupid and dangerous — so don’t do it.
Other Common Causes of Fatal Vehicle Accidents
In addition to the “big three” listed above, there are some other common issues that contribute to car accident fatalities. This includes:
Aggressive driving/road rage
Not using a seatbelt
Driving an unsafe vehicle
Driving at night
Driving in inclement weather
Hazardous road conditions
As you can see, most of the causes of car accident fatalities are avoidable. Following a few simple tips can help keep you and others safe.
Tips for Preventing a Fatal Car Accident
Many traffic accidents occur on weekend nights, during weekday rush-hour traffic, and during holidays when many people drive long distances to visit family and friends. Being extra alert when driving at these times can help prevent an accident.
Other ways to reduce your chances of having an auto accident include:
Never drinking and driving or driving after using any other substance that may impair your performance.
Turning off your cell phone while driving and never texting while driving. You might also try one of these apps that limit phone use while driving.
Obeying all road signs and traffic signals and never exceeding the posted speed limit.
Ensuring everyone in the vehicle is wearing their seatbelt.
Avoiding driving during heavy rain, snow, and other adverse weather conditions.
Adjusting your driving style and speed when driving in adverse conditions.
Following the rules of the road, practicing defensive driving, and using common sense can all greatly lower your chances of being involved in a fatal car accident. Whether you’re a fairly new driver or you’ve been driving for decades, I Drive Safely’s online defensive driving courses are a great way to make yourself safer and more confident on the road. Check them out today!