As an car accident lawyer and a former tractor trailer insurance defense lawyer, I have worked around fatality car accidents for most of my professional life. I have arrived at crash scenes with bodies being removed in pieces and reviewed photos that no one should ever have to see. A lawyer knows that working on these cases and getting to know the families profoundly affects them professionally, but these experiences can also affect the lawyer’s driving. There was a great article in the December 2009 issue of Men’s Health called Dead Man Driving regarding collisions and I thought I would discuss their points and add to it my own impressions.
I view safe driving as 40% your actual driving skill, 40% your decisions on what and when to drive and 20% blind luck. There is nothing we can do about blind luck so we will focus on the other two categories.
My Rules to Avoid Car Accidents in Georgia
1) Following distance. Start counting out the 7 to 8 seconds on the interstate. Being able to stop or change lanes when traffic comes to a sudden stop is huge. Look around you on the highway; very few people bother to follow this rule.
2) Animals in the road: Hit them. Seriously, swerving kills more people and pedestrians that you would believe.
3) DO NOT DRIVE FROM MIDNIGHT TO 5AM, especially on weekends. 80% of all fatal trucking and auto crashes that I have worked occurred during these hours. 90% of them are after dark. It’s a simple fact, daytime and dry weather driving is safer. The drunks, the truckers and the sleepy are out at night and you are drastically increasing your odds of a bad crash. The overnight drive to see the in-laws in Indiana for Thanksgiving? Pay the money to fly. It’s worth it.
4) Slow down and hug the right on curves. Most drivers drift over the center line on curves.
5) Coming over a hill, especially on rural roads, slow way down. You never know what is over the hump and I have worked tons of these collisions.
6) In sudden braking be sure to check your rear view mirror. If there is a tractor trailer behind you and you are at highway speeds, change lanes. It is far better to have an impact with another passenger car than to be rear ended by an 80,0000 lb tractor trailer in Georgia.
7) Buy a large sedan or agile SUV (read low center of gravity). Physics is your friend when it comes to crashes. Smaller cars simply cannot cope with high speed or high mass impacts the way that a heavy vehicle can. Be careful though with full size SUVs as they take longer to stop, cannot handle turns at high speed and with their high center of gravity, they roll over more easily than passenger cars.
8) Understand that driving your 10 year old car to be thrifty would make Ben Franklin proud, but safety technology is worth spending money on. Electronic skid control alone saves thousands of lives a year as do side impact and head impact airbags. Do not skimp on safety features.
Men’s Health Advice from the Article Worth Repeating
1) If you veer off the road, don’t swerve back on as you may over correct and hit oncoming traffic. Instead, take your foot off the gas and gradually come back on as the path ahead dictates.
2) Blown Tire: Do not slam on your brakes. Hit your flashers and let your car slow on its own and when you feel in control, pull off the road. I lost a wheel (as a result of lug nuts loosened by a botched theft attempt in NYC) at 60mph on I-95 and can tell you this works.
3) Set your cabin temperature lower by 15 degrees if you feel drowsy. Swedish studies show that increases alertness.
4) Daytime running Lights: Studies show they reduce head on collisions by 5%
Gripping Statistics from the Men’s Health Article
40% of collisions occur at intersections.
22% of fatal collisions occur at intersections.
Most fatal collisions occur from 12:00 A.M. to 3 A.M. on Sunday morning.
78% of collisions caused by driver distractions.
32% of all fatal collisions involve alcohol.
Above all take your time. I meet hundreds of families whose lives have been tragically altered and in most instances, following these rules would have reduced or eliminated the crashes