In many areas around the world, the number of car accidents is increasing. In the United States, in 2021, 42,915 people died in motor vehicle accidents, which is the highest rate since 2005. You can find similar statistics in most developed countries.
Why is this the case? Will this momentum continue?
And most importantly, what can you actually do about it?
Why Car Accidents Are Increasing
There are several competing hypotheses for why car accidents are increasing, but most likely, there are several factors at play, including:
- Distractions. Distractions are a leading cause of car accidents, and they have been for many decades. But the sheer number of distractions and the intensity of those distractions are both increasing. People now have access to handheld devices that provide entire worlds of entertainment and socialization; unfortunately, even glancing down at your smartphone for a couple of seconds could be enough to cause an accident.
- Overconfidence. Some drivers are suffering from overconfidence as well. During the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic was much sparser, and people could afford to drive more recklessly. This habit has persisted in many areas, with many drivers continuing to drive as if no other drivers are around them.
- Partially autonomous driving. It’s debatable whether fully autonomous cars are safer than human drivers, but there’s no question that partially autonomous driving does introduce some new risks. People dependent on partially autonomous driving might trust these systems too much, preventing them from intervening to prevent a crash when necessary.
- Increasing vehicle performance and weight. It doesn’t help that modern cars tend to be faster and heavier, with greater acceleration and control; this causes people to drive recklessly and underestimate the damage they can cause.
What You Can Do About It
There isn’t much you can do about the behaviors and decisions of other drivers. But there are many strategies you can use to mitigate the harm and damage caused by car accidents in your own life:
- Invest in better insurance. Take a moment to review your auto insurance policy. How much coverage are you truly offered? What types of accidents are covered? Does it make sense to upgrade your policies you have even better, more robust coverage? If you drive frequently or in areas with especially high risk of accidents, insurance is even more important. Also, if you’re going to be traveling to an area where your insurance doesn’t apply, consider getting temporary insurance. Your insurance policy may or may not offer the coverage you need.
- Drive less. One simple solution to dealing with increased risk of car accidents is to drive less. Consider taking public transportation, running errands in a single day rather than taking many separate trips, and carpooling when possible. Of course, it’s important to realize that some alternatives to driving, such as biking or walking, do not eliminate your risk of being involved in a car accident. More on this in a moment.
- Upgrade your vehicle (if possible). Consider upgrading your vehicle. Modern vehicles are designed with the latest safety standards, including more robust airbag protection, bigger and more effective crumple zones, and even collision detection technology to help you avoid certain accidents. Upgrading your vehicle could give you access to better safety features, ultimately keeping you safer if you’re ever involved in a collision.
- Slow down and leave more distance. The best way for an individual driver to reduce the possibility of an accident is to slow down and increase following distance. Doing so will give you much more time to react to the behaviors and decisions of other drivers in front of you and reduce the potential damage of an accident, should one occur. You don’t have to drive ridiculously slow, either; even small adjustments to your speed (i.e., 5-10 mph reductions) can make a big difference.
- Cut out all distractions. Distracted driving is now a contributing factor to more than 3,000 U.S. vehicle deaths per year. If you want to stay safer on the road and keep the people around you save as well, cut out all distractions. Stop looking at your phone. Don’t fiddle with the radio. Don’t eat or do your makeup while driving.
- Improve your situational awareness as a pedestrian. Being a pedestrian doesn’t mean you’re safe from car accidents; in fact, in some ways, you’re even more vulnerable here. Improve your situational awareness, even when you’re on sidewalks and in crosswalks; oftentimes, you can spot erratic drivers and avoid them before they become a threat to you.
There’s not much we can do about the increased rate of car accidents collectively, but individually, we can take greater responsibility for our actions and commit to safer driving habits. Even small adjustments to your behaviors and small improvements to your available safety features can reduce your chances of being involved in a bad accident.
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