Why We Crash Our Cars: The Scientific Method Part 1

July 7, 2020

car crash causesCan you ever know the exact cause of a car accident? Even if you’re the driver it’s often impossible to know all the circumstances leading to a crash. How fast was the other driver going? Were you concentrating on what you were doing the split second before the accident?

People say some crazy things about what caused their unfortunate mishap. But there’s a better way to get precise data. For one, more studies are being done using the scientific method. This helps us better understand the causes of car crashes.

These are called naturalistic driving studies. Researchers install cars with sonar, accelerometers, sensors, and video cameras. Driver’s sign up to participate and if they have an accident they provide data to the researchers.

According to the Strategic Highway Research Program, “Driving behavior is a critical factor in nearly all traffic crashes.”

From these studies, we’ve gleaned six behavioral issues that cause crashes. Three involve the ability to see everything that surrounds a driver at any given time. And we consider three as relating to driver mismanagement.

In today’s article, we’ll look at a driver’s perception within their range of vision. Next week we’ll talk about driver competence and mismanagement.

“I Didn’t See It Coming”

1. The Slide Right on Red
Has this happened to you? You approach a red light intending a right turn on red. You roll right as you look left for oncoming traffic. This is natural as left is where the cars are coming from! Who wants to get hit on their driver’s side by a speeding car?

The problem is that while you’re looking to the left you’re driving your car to the right. What can go wrong? But what about pedestrians crossing at the same time. The solution is to go slow as you look left. Right on red has proven safe over time, but that split second going slower as you slide through could save a life.

2. It Came Out of Nowhere
People have a natural tendency to think that if they don’t see something, it doesn’t exist. Say a large truck in front of you is stopped in the road signaling a left turn. You can’t see in front of him so assume there isn’t anyone coming. You pass him on the right. But at the same time, the car traveling toward the truck in the opposite direction turns left right in front of you.

The upshot is that trouble lurks even if you don’t see it. Anticipate cars and pedestrians coming out of nowhere.

3. I Fell Asleep
According to the National Safety Council, a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually. Also, the National Sleep Foundation found that half of U.S. adult drivers admit to driving while feeling drowsy. And 20% of those admit to actually falling asleep while driving during the past year.

You can even fall asleep for a few seconds and not even know it. It’s called microsleep and it happens to people already tired. Your brain falls asleep while your eyes are open and you look alert. You can see the problem this might cause traveling 70 MPH on the Thruway!

All of this reminds us of an article we posted a few years ago on how stress can cause accidents. People forget that all of us are human. We have lots on our minds and are easily distracted. That’s why we’re here to help you with your car insurance. If we don’t have it now, give us a call and we’ll look your current policy over and offer recommendations.

We hope this article gets you thinking about ways to concentrate on what you’re doing when driving. The life you safe may very well be your own.

Next week, we’ll discuss driving competence and how it affects your chances of having an accident. Until then, drive with you eyes wide open!

Your SZW Team

SZW Insurance is your Utica area Trusted Choice™ independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here. In Westchester County call Zak Scalzo at 914.246.0315 or email at zaks@szwinsurance.com.