The D.E.P. Academy Driver Education Course


Accidents Page 1  

Accident Statistics


  • Traffic accidents are consistently one of the top 5 causes of death in the United States. Although some accidents are unavoidable, the sad truth is that thousands of lives would be saved each year if drivers were aware of the physical, psychological, and road and weather conditions which increase accident risk, and took defensive steps to insure safe driving. 
  • There are between 450,000 and 500,000 traffic accidents reported annually in California alone.  About 60% of these accidents involve property damage only, 39% involve injury to a passenger, driver, or pedestrian, and about 1% result in death.
  • One person is killed every 2 1/2  hours in California, and one person is injured every 2 minutes, as the result of a traffic collision. 
  • Although drivers under 30 years of age account for only about 23% of licensed drivers, they comprise about 35% of all drivers in fatal and injury collisions. 
  • Teenage drivers have total accidents rates which are 4 times that of adult drivers.  Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers.
  • There are a number of physical conditions which can affect safe driving. Physical conditions which can lead to accidents include poor vision, poor hearing, illness, and fatigue.
  • Good vision is important for safe driving and avoiding accidents. You need to have good visual acuity, peripheral vision, depth perception, and glare resistance and recovery to drive safely.  Good vision allows you to identify potential hazards and react more quickly. You should have your vision checked and wear prescription lenses, as necessary, to compensate for visual deficiency.  You also need to keep your view unobstructed by not hanging things  from your mirrors, or otherwise blocking your windows, and keeping your windows and mirrors clean.
  • A number of accidents are caused by not checking blind spots.  Make sure to turn your head before merging into a lane. or before making a turn. 
  • Good hearing is also necessary for safe driving and avoiding accidents. Your hearing can warn you of danger, such as the presence of vehicles in your blind spots. Make sure to have your hearing checked periodically. You should also keep your radio turned down. It is illegal to wear dual headphones while driving. Driving with at least one of your side windows open will allow you to hear what is going on outside of your vehicle.

Driving Behavior Leading To Accidents

  • Some of the more common driver behaviors which lead to accidents include driving too fast, tailgating, inattentiveness, poor visual scanning, making poor decisions, improper lane changes, unsafe passing, failing to yield the right-of-way, or not being able to handle your vehicle in an emergency situation. Included in the list of common behaviors contributing to auto accidents are unsafe speed, failing to obey stop signs and signals, as well as driving on the wrong side of the road. Speeding is the primary collision factor for about 28% of all fatal and injury accidents.
  • The faster you drive, the less time you have to react to road hazards, the longer it takes for you to stop your vehicle, and the greater the impact and injuries will be if you have an accident. As discussed before, the basic speed law in California states that no person shall drive at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent for weather and road conditions, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property. The key to avoiding accidents caused by unsafe speed is obvious. Slow down. Be aware of the posted speed limits around you, the road conditions, and the weather, and adjust your speed accordingly.
  • Failure to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle or pedestrian is the primary collision factor in about 20% of fatal crashes and crashes that cause injuries. Never assume that the other driver will yield the right-of-way to you, and you should never insist on taking the right-of-way, especially if it will help prevent an accident. Keep in mind that not everyone knows and understands right-of-way laws, and even if they do, they may not obey them. In either case, always be prepared, and expect other drivers to make mistakes. 
  • If you are in a hurry, or emotionally distressed, it's easy to demand that everyone yield the right-of-way to you. This is an unhealthy attitude, and can lead to a serious accident. Common courtesy and a non-assuming attitude are keys to avoiding accidents.
  • About 9% of fatal and injury accidents in California are caused by improper lane changes.  Illegal left, right, or u-turns are also dangerous. When signs and road markings prohibits these turns, it is for your safety. Failure to obey posted signs can result in serious or fatal accidents.
  • When making left turns be particularly cautious.  Always yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the same road, coming from the opposite direction, that are close enough to be dangerous and pose a hazard. Never turn in front of a car coming right at you! Turn only when you can see that it is safe, and always check for motorcyclists and bicyclists.  Be careful when you're on a divided highway, or roadways with several lanes. When making a left turn on those roads, watch out for vehicles coming toward you in any lane that you must cross to make your turn.
  • Failing to come to a complete stop, or not obeying traffic signals, is also a primary collision factor in California, contributing to about 9% of fatal and injury accidents. Stop signs and red lights mean stop. It is safest to stop your vehicle behind the limit line, or crosswalk, or before the intersection if no limit line is marked. Every time you stop, you should feel your body pull slightly forward and then backwards. If you do not feel yourself move backwards against your seat, you have not stopped completely.
  • Intersections are the most common place where accidents occur in urban areas. Because vehicles moving in different directions meet at intersections, and because pedestrians are often present, they are very dangerous. Remember that you should stop at yellow signal lights if it is safe to do so.

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