This list contains the 8 most dangerous things you can do in your car, short of "trying to ramp it over a canyon" or "build a bomb in the back seat."
Guess what. 78% aren't really "accidents." They're caused by distractions. So, even though this list might be terrifying, you can correct almost all of it. Prevention and safety are good things.
Talking On A Cellphone - Around 1,000 Deaths Per Year
Seriously, talking on the phone while driving is basically driving drunk. No joke. It was tested and the reaction speed is almost identical to those under the influence at the .08 limit. Even bluetooth isn't a solution.
A growing number of U.S. cities and towns—not to mention more than 50 countries around the world—now ban cellphone use while driving. Why? Of the 10.2 million car accidents in the United States last year, roughly 2.5 million of them involved drivers on cellphones.
And not just fender benders. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers using handheld devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to cause injuries. When a driver between the ages of 30 and 39 dies in a car crash, there’s a 24 percent chance he or she was on the phone at the time of the accident.
Turning Left - 2,400 Deaths Per Year
The left turn is a harsh mistress. We've read articles about engineers trying to figure out ways to eradicate left turns from major intersections altogether (looping is one method), and we know that UPS maps their routes without them if they can. They take a lot of time, and they're probably going to cause an accident.
Here’s another thing brown can do for you: UPS drivers are encouraged to plot routes of right turns only, because waiting at left turns wastes time. They’re also much more dangerous, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics. By comparison, 319 fatal accidents occur when turning right, 800 when passing another vehicle, and 549 when stopped in traffic. I’m not suggesting you only make right turns from now on; but when you slide into a left turn lane, your guard should go up.
Texting - 3,945 Deaths Per Year
Just don't do it. It's not that hard. Seriously, cut that shizz out. It isn't worth it.
Nearly 20 percent of American adults admit to sending texts while behind the wheel. Anecdotal evidence (my commute, and probably yours too) suggests the number may be much higher. Here’s all you need to know: As soon as you slide out that keyboard, your risk of crashing increases by 23 times.
A few years ago, the editors at Car & Driver conducted an experiment that underscored the dangers of texting. First, an unimpaired driver braked as quickly as possible. Then the experiment was repeated when the driver was. . .
Legally drunk: The car stopped 4 feet farther up the road
Reading e-mail: 36 feet farther up the road
Sending a text: 70 feet farther up the road
In other words, that it’s safer to drive drunk than to text and drive (or read email, for that matter).
The solution is simple: Put down the phone. Hide it in your trunk if you have to. If you don’t have the willpower to go cold turkey, fire up ZoomSafer (BlackBerry) or Textecution (Android)—both apps disable texting at driving speed. If you're an iPhone user, try Text ’n Drive, which reads e-mails aloud and lets you reply with your voice.
Riding Shotgun - 5,100 Deaths Per Year
Calling shotgun is fun, but, maybe it should be whoever says it first DOESN'T have to ride in the passenger seat.
The front passenger seat is the most dangerous in the car. In fact, you’re safer in the driver’s seat, partly because—as the driver—your natural instinct is to swerve away from impact. Sit in a back seat and you’re more than 25 percent less likely to die, according to a study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention, and more than a third less likely to be injured.
But which rear seat? The safest is the middle, according to the study, improving your odds of surviving by nearly 40 percent (assuming you’re buckled in—it’s the most dangerous seat if you’re not). The rear passenger’s-side seat is a smidge safer than the rear driver’s-side seat.
Driving Drowsy - 5,235 Deaths Per Year
This one's tough, as everyone has probably done it, and you can't blow into a meter and see if you're too drowsy.
According to a AAA survey, 41 percent of drivers have nodded off behind the wheel at some point. Drowsy driving accounts for 17 percent of all fatal accidents each year. Perhaps surprisingly, according to an NHTSA panel that studied drowsy driving, young men are at highest risk. Two-thirds of sleep-related crashes involve drivers younger than 30, and 80 percent of those drivers were male. The panel recommends that you:
• Take a break. You shouldn’t ever drive more than 3 hours without stopping.
• Don’t drive overnight. It sounds fun, but the vast majority of sleep-related crashes occur between midnight and 6 a.m.
• Steal a nap. Even 15 minutes can improve alertness and reaction time.
• Drink two cups of coffee. A study found this amount of caffeine will perk you up.
• Bring a friend. More than 80 percent of drowsy-driving crashes involve vehicles with just one occupant—the driver.
• Stay off highways. Drowsy driving crashes are most common on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or above. In this case, a twisty two-laner may help keep you engaged.
Drinking And Driving - 10,200 Deaths Per Year
This is the EASIEST ONE TO AVOID. And to be perfectly honest, we don't know why people out there still risk this. Why? Why do idiots drive drunk? They ruin their lives and lives of others. It's so easy not to do!
Everyone knows not to drive drunk. Still, driving under the influence accounts for nearly a third of all traffic deaths. Men are more than twice as likely to die in alcohol-related accidents than women. Where, when, and how you drive can significantly stack the odds against you. Speeding past a bar late at night on the weekend—not a good idea. Roughly 1,000 sober men are killed by drunk drivers every year.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb: If you have to ask yourself whether you're too drunk to drive, you probably are. You might also consider carrying the AlcoScan AL5000 ($90, alcometers.com), a portable breath-analysis device tested and approved by NHTSA.
Not Wearing Your Seatbelt - 12,000 Deaths Per Year
Come on. It's one motion. You put it on, you forget you even have it on. Why wouldn't people do this? Why?
Yes, this is an obvious one, but 15 percent of Americans haven’t gotten the message. Roughly 31,000 Americans die in traffic accidents every year. If everyone wore a seatbelt, that number would be cut in half, according to the NHTSA. Likewise, seatbelts also reduce your risk of serious injury by half. You really have no excuses, so stop making them.
Driving While Male - 21,865 Deaths Per Year
Can't do too much about this, guys, other than recognize your innate responses and control them.
The most dangerous drug on the road isn’t alcohol, but testosterone. In virtually every area of risk, in virtually all age groups, males experience much higher rates of injury and death on the road than women do.
According to the NHTSA, more than 70 percent of motor-vehicle deaths in 2009 were males, including 90 percent of motorcyclist deaths. Even male pedestrians get run over twice as often as females.
Why do guys keep crashing? The statistics here are unequivocal: Men are much more likely than women to speed, drive aggressively, fail to wear seatbelts, and drive drunk. In the case of the latter, 39 percent of all male driving deaths involved blood-alcohol levels of 0.08 percent or greater, compared with only 18 percent of female deaths.
Driving is a dangerous thing. We put a lot of trust in ourselves, strangers, and tin cans moving at 80 mph. It's also a privilege and can be an incredible and quick way to travel. But, it's like nobody respects it. We have to respect what it is, and how to be safe while doing it.
[Image via AP Images.]