Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for Americans age 1-44. (That's everyone too young to be at risk for heart disease, cancer, and stroke, the biggest overall killers.)
In 2017, 37,133 Americans died in road crashes that's more than 9/11, every month and 2.5 million were treated in emergency rooms for injuries, many of them disfiguring or disabling. Between 1899 and 2012, records indicate that 3,551,332 Americans died in motor-vehicle crashes (seven times as many as died in WWII).
Even worse, there were 1.25 million road traffic deaths globally in 2013. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability as a result of their injury. It is right on the cusp of becoming the leading cause of death, globally.
Though it doesn't feel like it we don't have any evolutionary hardwiring to tell us to be afraid driving is the most dangerous activity in modern life. By far. Here's how to survive your drive.
- Don't drive after drinking. Alcohol-impaired drivers are involved in 1 in 3 crash deaths, causing 11,000 (US) deaths in 2009.
- Don't try to work out if you're sober enough to drive.
- Don't ever ride with someone who's been drinking. Be rude. Call a cab.
- Don't speed. Speeding is a factor in one third of road deaths. Arrive alive.
- Wear your seatbelt in any seat, in any vehicle (including cabs). Nearly half of all people who get dead driving weren't wearing theirs.
- Don't drive distracted. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and 448,000 injured.
- Turn off your phone. If you leave it on, don't answer it. If you call someone and they are driving, hang up. See video →
- Don't eat, put on make-up, chat, or fiddle with the radio. Again, you are doing the most dangerous thing in life, so you should probably focus on it. And it is not just you who are in danger, but also your passengers plus all the daughters, sons, wives, and husbands sharing the road with you.
- Did we mention car crashes are the number one cause of death of teenaged girls? See video →
- Put your hands on the steering wheel. Driving with one finger works great until something unexpected happens. And when does anything unexpected ever happen on the road? Ask the 1.25 million people who are now dead because of crashes last year alone.
- Don't assume the other guy won't kill you. Be prepared for unpredictable lane changes, sudden stops, unsignaled turns, swerving, and tailgating all of which will kill you just as dead as your own error. Know what's happening on the sides of your car, behind, and down the road.
- The two main ways faultless drivers get killed are:
- A head-on collision when an oncoming driver swerves into your lane. Stay on partitioned roads whenever possible. (This is why they are statistically much safer.) When on unpartitioned roads, don't assume oncoming cars will stay on their side.
- A side-on collision when someone at a cross street totally misses a stop sign or red light, and comes through at full speed. (75,000 crashes a year and rising due to the increase in distracted driving caused by texting.) Try to look both ways, even when you have the right of way.
- The two main ways faultless drivers get killed are:
- Don't drive drowsy, especially when alone. Don't try to push on through. Dozing off is insidious. And crashes caused by falling asleep at the wheel have the highest fatality rate of any kind of auto accident, because when you fall asleep your leg muscles relax and gravity pulls your foot straight down to the floor, taking the gas pedal along with it!
- Slow down at night. Fatal crashes are three times as common at night. Slow down and increase following distance. Be extra careful on hills and curves.
- Be extra careful in bad weather. Slow down and increase following distance. Be extra careful on hills and curves.
- Don't tailgate. Leave a safe following distance, and give yourself time to react. You won't get there one second sooner tailgating; and much later if you have a wreck. You are also threatening the person ahead of you with lifelong back and neck pain. Again, for zero benefit. Tailgating may be one of the worst, stupidest, and most selfish acts in the world.
- Drive the newest car you can afford. Life-saving features such as multiple air bags, crumple zones, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control are more common in newer cars.
- Don't drive aggressively, which also increases accident risk. Try to have some perspective: you're not dead, in a wheelchair, or facially disfigured what do you have to be upset about? Take a deep breath. It's Christmas.
- Be especially careful on rural state roads, where death rates are much higher.
- Maintain your vehicle.
- Check your tire pressure. Blowouts are seriously lethal.
- Don't ignore soft or vibrating brakes. You're going to need your brakes.
- Always signal/indicate for turns. It's not optional.
- Watch out for bikers, cyclists, and pedestrians. This won't save your life, but you'll enjoy Christmas a lot more if you haven't accidentally killed someone else. (Thousands won't be so lucky.)
Best wishes for a lovely, happy, joyful, peaceful, safe holiday.Sources:
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- Centers for Disease Control
- World Health Organization
- New York Times
- U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Agency
- Wikipedia:Mobile phones and driving safety