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A Crash Course in Car Crashes

by From the Publisher's Desk
December 13, 2017

Let science show you how to skip your next roadway disaster.

Abbreviated version of an article by Steve Casner

Car crashes are mysteries. Even though roughly 6 million of them happen each year in the United States alone, we seldom learn much.

The six main causes of car crashes

1, The Rolling Right Turn on Red (think Central and Washington next summer)

You approach a red light, and you’re about to turn right. You slow down but don’t come to a full stop. As you continue to roll, you look to your left to see if there are any cars coming at you from that direction. You turn your head back to the right and suddenly, out of nowhere, there’s a pedestrian or a bicyclist.

The rolling right on red now accounts for 6 percent of all pedestrian fatalities, and the number is on the rise. Worse still, 21 percent of the deaths happen to kids. Even when a car is moving slowly, children have a four times greater chance of dying than grown-ups.

Solution: Stop your roll when making this very simple transition. It’ll cost you about three seconds, and you just might save a life.

2. Falling Asleep at the Wheel.

We now estimate that about 7 percent of all car crashes, and 21 percent of fatal crashes, happen to drowsy drivers. Drivers are not aware of the danger of microsleep—brief intervals during which our brains just shut down and go offline for few seconds.

Solution: Did you sleep less than seven hours last night? Is it late? Are you alone in the car? No caffeine on hand? These are the elements of disaster. Delete some of them from your situation or get out of the car.

3. Loss of Control.

It’s hard to imagine losing control of your vehicle, but it accounts for 11 percent of all crashes. Aggressive maneuvering and taking a sharp curve too fast account for about 5 percent of all crashes. Another 2 percent happen when we don’t slow down for water on the road.

The remainder of these crashes happen when another driver or even a sudden turn in the road puts us in a surprise situation that demands an instant response. We imagine ourselves coolly responding when something unexpected pops up, but most people overreact and overcompensate and sometimes kick their car afterward.

Solution: You don’t have to crash your car all by yourself. Your car, the weather, and other drivers are willing to help make it happen. Be sure to factor them into your thinking.

4. Into the Blind

Ever make a left turn at an intersection when there’s a huge bus blocking your view of what’s coming from the other direction? We seem to have this natural belief that if we can’t see something, then it must not exist. When we’re kids and the bedroom light is out, we are convinced that there is a monster under the bed. When we grow up, we become certain that there is no monster under the bed. The reality is that there may or may not be a monster under the bed. The crash data remind us that this misunderstanding is widespread among grown-ups.

Solution: Always check for monsters.

5. The Rear-Ender

Your first job when driving: Don’t hit the car in front of you. As simple as it sounds, hitting the car in front of us accounts for between 23 percent and 30 percent of all crashes. We also imagine that the driver in front of us will wait until we’re done with our text before he locks up his brakes. The crash data clearly demonstrate that he or she won’t.

Solution: Leave some space. You’re not getting there any sooner.

6. Distracted Lane or Road Departure

Your second job when driving is to stay in your lane. Thirty-three percent of all crashes happen when we don’t stay in our lane, or even on the road. Humans are not natural performers when it comes to keeping an eye on much of anything and even less so when asked to attend to several things at once. Somewhere, a gnat just cracked up his friends by quipping: “I have the attention span of a human being!”

Solution: Stow the technology and do your best to pay attention. It’s way harder than it looks.

Drive carefully. We want you around to read tomorrow's issue of HollistonReporter.com


Steve Casner is the author of Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds.  For the complete article by Casner, go to http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2017/11/the_six_main_causes_of_car_crashes.html



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Comments (1)

I often think that there should be a second Driver's Ed course, given after the licensee has been on the road for a few years. With tips like: when you're stopped at a merge, waiting for the guy ahead of you to pull onto the highway...don't assume that once he's started accelerating, that he will continue to do so. Wait until he's well and truly gone before checking over your shoulder for oncoming traffic and pulling out. And the ever-popular "Dutch reach", of course -- check for bicycles before opening that door -- driver AND passenger! And a whole semester on winter driving :-) Be safe out there!

- Peter Simpson | 12/13/17 10:36 AM



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