Lots of people are scared to fly, and that makes sense; it's not natural for humans to soar through the air. But neither is it natural to scoot along the ground at 70 mph, but most of us do so without batting an eye—despite the fact that it's much, much more dangerous than flying. And as dangerous as driving can be, it's often the places, times, and behaviors you least expect that pose the most danger.
If you've turned on the local news in the last few decades, you've probably heard the adage that a huge proportion of accidents occur within just a few miles of home. That's true, and not just for America, but in countries all over the world. Of course, that makes a kind of sense, since you have to drive that mile or three to get to or from just about anywhere. But what about the less-obvious danger zones we drive through every day?
"Speed kills" is another phrase we've all heard, and it's definitely true in the abstract sense of physics dictating the greater your velocity, the greater the force of any crash that might happen. But in reality, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) study, 80 percent of all fatal accidents happen not on high-speed highways, but on regular surface streets. That turns the deadliness of speed on its head, and should make any conscientious driver pay more attention even when the speeds seem like purely fender-bender territory.
But what about speed itself as a factor in crashes, regardless of where they occur? It turns out that the FARS data shows speeding plays a role in just 27 percent of fatal accidents. That means that 73 percent of fatal accidents didn't involve speeding at all.
A related scare of driving our nation's highways is the head-on collision. We've all had that scary moment when it looked like someone making a dicey pass or simply drifting out of their lane might end up in our laps. But it's not that oncoming driver we should be most afraid of—it's ourselves. That's right, 58 percent of all fatal car crashes involve just a single vehicle.
You might think, oh, well, that's not me—that must be tired drivers pushing on through the night, ending up in a ditch or against a tree, right? In reality, only 51 percent of fatal accidents happen at night. The other 49 percent happen in broad daylight.
Or you might think, well, that's just the drunks—they're the ones who can't keep their cars on the road, and really, its their own fault anyway. It's true that drunk driving is a major danger (and an entirely preventable one), not just for the drunk driver, but for those who share the road with them, as well as passengers, pedestrians, and even those quietly sipping their tea in the nearest Starbucks. But ultimately, only 23 percent of all fatal car accidents involve drivers with any positive blood alcohol content (BAC) at all—and not all of them are over the legal limit. Of those who die in drunk driving accidents, it's the 25- to 34-year-old age group that is the most dangerous; 26 percent of all fatal drunk driving accidents involve drivers in that group, the highest percentage of any age range.
Worse still, you might think that as a young person, you're not prone to the risks of driving while drowsy, buzzed, or just slow to react like those blue-haired rolling obstacles you see every day. But that's simply untrue; 20 percent of all fatal accidents happen to drivers in that same 25-34 age group. That's the highest percentage of any age group—including brand-new drivers and the elderly.
We men also like to take pride in our driving abilities, but the numbers don't lie, brothers: male drivers account for 77 percent of all fatal accidents. That means females are more than three times less likely to be the driver in a fatal accident. Maybe next time you need to take a road trip, you should be glad your wife, daughter, sister, or female friend takes the wheel.
Finally, and this one is perhaps the most unbelievable in today's age of safe cars and crash testing, but 43 percent of all drivers and 45 percent of all passengers killed in car accidents weren't wearing their seat belts. This is the single simplest and quickest thing you can do to increase crash safety for you and your loved ones, no matter what car you drive, where you drive it, or when. Buckle up, and make sure they do too. We all want you to be around to tell the story of how you survived that crazy car wreck no one saw coming.
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