From speeding to not taking due care and attention when weather conditions worsen, there are no end of factors that can seriously increase your risk of a potentially fatal car crash.
The list of the top five causes of accidents on US roads, compiled by lowpriceinsuranceprice.com reads like a condemnation of the digital world. Though we all know that alcohol impairs reaction times and that driving when tired can be a recipe for automotive disaster and on the whole, make an effort to avoid doing either, the most common cause of traffic accidents in the US is distraction.
Using smartphones while driving, attempting to text and steer, tuning the radio or playing with the infotainment system at an inopportune moment are the leading causes of an accident.
Just two seconds of inattention while driving can be sufficient to cause an accident. According to the University of Utah, it can take up to 27 seconds to regain one's attention after shifting focus from the road to the infotainment system and back again.
But distractions don't have to be digital. As we spend such a large percentage of our time behind the wheel either traveling to or from work or running family errands, drivers are just as guilty of drinking coffee, applying makeup or facing other occupants to hold a conversation when they should be looking ahead.
NHTSA data suggests that in 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. It also claims that during daylight hours, 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while behind the wheel.
Driving after drinking
Drunk driving is thankfully on a downward trend yet it is still the second biggest cause of accidents on the road. According to data from 2015, crashes caused by drunk-driving claimed 10,265 lives.
Driving in poor weather conditions
Obviously, you're taking your life in your own hands if you decided to drive into a tornado, but between 2002 and 2012, roughly 1.3 million weather-related vehicle crashes occurred on US roads every year and the majority of them were due to fog, heavy rain, icy or wet road conditions.
Over that period, fog alone was responsible for 31,385 crashes, 511 deaths and 11,812 injuries.
According to the National Weather Service, over the same period of time, extreme heat killed 123 people, tornadoes killed 109, flooding was responsible for 75 lives and lightning for 33. The NHTSA puts environmental elements as the cause of 2% of all crashes on US roads.
Speed was a contributing factor in 27% of all fatal crashes in 2015, and it is a persistent problem with speeding-relating accidents remaining stubbornly at the one-third mark of all accidents for the past 20 years. Even though modern cars' braking systems are phenomenal and some vehicles are capable of braking without human intervention, over the same period of time human reaction times and reflexes have not altered.
Without tires that grip, steering that steers and brakes that bring a car to a complete halt, it's only a matter of time before you'll be involved in an accident. Even something as seemingly trivial as a worn-out wiper blade could mean the difference between seeing and not seeing an obstacle before it's too late. Worse still, studies show that maintenance is one of the elements of car ownership that drivers tend to put off, either to save money or because they can't be without their car while repairs are being carried out. The NHTSA estimates that between 2004-2007, the last time it gathered in-depth data on the subject, mechanical and other vehicular issues were the overriding cause of 44,000 car accidents or 2% of all crashes recorded over the period studied.