Car accidents have killed more people in the United States than all the nation’s wars, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Improvements in vehicle design, road design and seat belt use have reduced accident fatalities, but motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for people aged four to 34. Educating people on driving safety topics helps reduce the risk of dangerous car accidents.
Distracted driving means you are visually, manually or cognitively distracted from driving. Examples of distractions include reading maps, using a cell phone, daydreaming, eating and drinking, changing the radio station, using a GPS or performing personal grooming. Driver distraction contributed to almost 20 percent of accidents in 2008.
Wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to protect yourself in a motor vehicle accident. Seat belts saved more than 13,000 lives in 2008. Children and pregnant women should also wear seat belts. Don’t count on air bags to save you–seat belts are designed to work with air bags.
Impaired drivers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol was involved in nearly a third of traffic-related deaths in 2008, while other drugs were present in about 18 percent of deaths. Young people, motorcyclists and people who have previously received convictions for driving while impaired are most likely to drive while intoxicated or on drugs.
Speeding contributes to nearly a third of all fatal crashes. Most speed-related crashes involve a single vehicle, and 60 percent occur at night. Driving too fast also uses more fuel.
Child Safety Seats
Children should use child safety seats placed in the backseat until they are tall enough to properly use seat belts, which usually occurs around age eight. Children under 13 should always ride in the backseat, since deployed air bags can endanger young children.
Car accidents cause more than one of three teen deaths. Males, teens who have recently gotten their licenses and teens driving with teenage passengers are at highest risk for motor vehicle crashes. Teenage drivers are less likely to recognize hazardous situations, less likely to wear seatbelts and more likely to speed than other groups of drivers.