Car accidents cause a lot of deaths and injuries. Every day millions of distracted, sleepy people climb into the driver’s seat of their death machines. They proceed to drive these two-ton hunks of metal and plastic at break-neck speeds while texting and throwing finished cans of beer out their windows. At some point, while they’re weaving around other vehicles, a deer (or if you live in Australia, a kangaroo) jumps out onto the road. It’s pouring rain. Next thing you know, you’re part of a twenty car pile up.
Okay, so it may not be that bad, but some people do take unnecessary risks behind the wheel. Here are some driving tips that might keep you safe.
Turn off your cell phone
We know about your burningly, urgent social life. A nuclear bomb exploding would be better than missing a text message. As you reach for your cell phone to RSVP to Stephy’s beach barbecue to celebrate her graduation from beauty school, keep the following in mind.
Texting while driving means that you are six times more likely to have an accident. Talking on the phone increases the chance of crashing by two times, so turn off your phone in the car and put it away.
In a study published in 2018 in Risk Analysis: An International Journal, researchers found that many drivers believed that by self-regulating—only using cell phones at intersections or areas with fewer cars—they would not be at risk. In the survey, 68% of participants said that they would need a lot of convincing to believe that cell use in the car was dangerous. And ladies: get off the phone and pay attention! Women were more likely to make calls or text while driving. Experienced drivers were the only group that avoided cell use while behind the wheel.
Author of the research Oviedo-Trespalacios explained: “Drivers are not good at identifying where it is safe to use their phone, it is safer for drivers to just pull over in an appropriate place to use their phone quickly and then resume their journey.”
Only Drive Sober
Don’t be like your elected legislator—he or she probably is not a good role model for several reasons. Ballotpedia.org publishes a list of politicians, Congress members, state legislators, judges, and municipal officers who received DUIs. Unfortunately, it isn’t short. The worst part is just because Mike Crappo is the only congressman on the list, doesn’t mean he’s the only one who does it. He’s the only one the police have caught. Even good old W. got a DUI. Crashing a car, crashing a country—what’s the difference?
We write this at risk of sounding like squares, but research has shown that even drivers with blood alcohol levels under the legal limit cause accidents, and pot-smokers are more inferior drivers even when they aren’t high.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study of the effect of alcohol in crashes. After analyzing data from 2000-2015 about more than 600,000 crash fatalities, researchers found that 37% involved a driver with a positive blood alcohol level (BAC). The legal BAC in most states is .08, but 15% of the drivers in the alcohol-related fatalities had a BAC lower than the legal limit. This finding means even drivers who are not breaking the law, are putting others at risk if they have been drinking. Of the people who died in these crashes, 55% were not the drivers with the positive BAC.
Scientists and doctors at McLean’s hospital studied pot-smokers who weren’t high. In the research published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, they describe how heavy users, even if they hadn’t smoked in the last 12 hours, were more likely to hit pedestrians in their simulation. Poor performance was especially prevalent in people who started using pot before they were 16 years old.
So, your DARE counselor was probably right: Just say no!
Get Your Beauty Sleep
In a survey of 150,000 people from the United States, the CDC found that 4% of them had fallen asleep at the wheel in the past 30 days. That’s about 6000 sleepy drivers. Conservatively, they believe that sleepy drivers cause at least 72,000 crashes a year and estimate that drowsy drivers could cause up to 6000 fatalities per year.
Before taking a long trip, get at least seven hours of sleep. Pay attention to signs of drowsiness.
If you find yourself yawning and blinking frequently, it is time to pull over for a rest. Difficulty remembering the last few miles you have traveled, drifting from your lane, hitting the rumble strip, and missing your exit are other warnings.
We all wish we were Dominic Torreto, Vin Diesel’s character from The Fast and the Furious. Just remember, about 1500 cars were destroyed in the filming of the first seven chapters. You might take that as a warning when you’re foot is itching over the accelerator pedal.
You might respond that filmmakers purposely damaged those cars, which is true, but a large body of evidence has shown a direct relationship between speed and accidents. The faster a driver goes, the higher the likelihood of his or her car careening into another or a tree or a pedestrian or well just about anything. Going faster is more dangerous in every setting: urban, rural, and interstates.
For example, in Reanalysis of Travelling Speed and the Risk of Crash Involvement in Adelaide South
Australia researchers studied the risk of having an accident between the speeds of 60 and 80 km per hour. For every 5 km/h that speeds increased, the risk of having an accident doubled.
You may want to take your time wherever it is you’re going—no need to rush.
If you don’t use your cell phone, get your rest, abstain from alcohol and drugs, and drive at a reasonable speed, you will be much less likely to get in an accident. It sounds pretty dull, but it could save your life.