5 Auto Accident Types And How To Avoid Them
Whether you’re a wily road veteran or a young driver just starting out, you can never afford to let your guard down when behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Accidents can happen to even the best of drivers. You cannot depend solely on your own driving ability. You also have to be aware of what the other drivers are doing.
That being said, there are ways of lowering your chances of an accident. In fact, some people can drive their whole lives without any serious wrecks on their record. How do they do it? They know what the risks are, and they anticipate what the other driver is doing, not just themselves.
In that spirit, we look to Allstate’s Joe Campanella for guidance on the most common types of accidents as well as actions you can take to avoid them.
Hitting a Parked Car
There is nothing more frustrating than coming back to your car in a public parking lot, only to see that a driver has scraped off the paint and a piece of your side without sticking around to tell you about it.
While Campanella is not blaming you if that happens, he does caution that “if you had a hard time getting into a spot, other drivers will have a hard time getting out,” adding that it’s better to “park a bit further away and walk than to deal with car damage.”
He recommends avoiding this type of collision by “remaining aware of your surroundings and the size of the vehicle you are driving.” Also, “Make sure to look behind you when reversing and don’t rely solely on rearview mirrors or backup cameras.”
So you’re driving down the road at 40 or 45 miles per hour. You think you have it made because the car ahead of you is several car lengths up, and it won’t hurt if you just — whammo.
Unbeknownst to you, in that split second that your mind was on other things, the driver slammed on his brakes because there was a turtle crossing the road.
This sort of thing happens a lot, and when it does, it’s usually your fault for not paying attention (in the eyes of the law).
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that “rear-enders” account for 29 percent of all accidents. In a 2007 study, the organization found drivers involved in rear-end crashes were “routinely engaged in activities that divert their attention from the forward roadway while driving,” while close to two-thirds (64 percent) “were not looking at the road at the time of the crash.”
Campanella notes that activities like trying to smash a bug on the windshield, talking on a cellphone, or playing with the radio, are common causes.
“To help avoid rear-ending another vehicle because of inattention,” he adds, “always pay attention to your surroundings, particularly the street and other vehicles.” Also, “Make sure your cell phone is safely put away and focus your attention to the road and your speed.”
Driving home and caught in a rainstorm? What do you do if your tires hit a patch of water and you feel control of the car wrested from your grip? If you answered “slam on the brakes,” then you’re in danger of an accident caused by hydroplaning.
Tires that hit standing water in such a manner must force the water out of the way to stay in touch with the road. When this happens, Campanella notes, the tire tread “gives a path for the water to be channeled away from the contact area of the tire,” adding that “If the car’s speed increases to the point where the water cannot be pushed out of the way quickly enough, a thin layer of water will remain between the tires and the road surface, resulting in the driver losing control of the vehicle.” This is what hydroplaning is.
Since abrupt braking and jerking the wheel are ineffective in a hydroplane, and they actually make the outcome worse, you’ll want to do your best to avoid this situation entirely.
Reduce your speed during and immediately following rainstorms, especially when the water has no choice but to accumulate due to poor drainage or potholes. “Slowing down makes it easier for the tires to connect with the ground,” Campanella states, adding that you should also check tire tread on a routine basis, so you’re not caught in a situation with bald tires. “If you do find yourself in a hydroplane situation,” he advises, “the best thing to do is stop accelerating.” Also,
“Avoid stomping on your brakes. Instead, apply steady pressure to the brakes and allow the car to coast down to a slower speed.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in a 2009 study, found that side-impact accidents accounted for 27 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in the United States. One of the most common types of side-impact crashes — the “T-bone” — occur “when one driver fails to stop and collides with the vehicle that has the right of way,” Campanella notes, adding that these accident types are “especially dangerous” due to the lack of ability for absorbing energy and shielding passengers that every vehicle possesses.
“To avoid these dangerous crashes,” Campanella notes, “be sure to follow the typical rules of the road: Look both ways for oncoming cars when you have the right of way and make sure to stop at red lights and stop signs.” Also, “Follow posted speed limits to make sure that you will have adequate time to stop for a changing light.”
The best protection against T-bone collisions is the type of car you own. Cars today come with a variety of safety features that weren’t as commonplace a decade ago. Head-protecting side airbags are essential!
Even the most careful driver can become the victim of bad animal timing. Animals — particularly deer, in my case — have a knack for crossing the road at the worst times. As a result, you could be going the speed limit and end up in an unavoidable crash.
Still, you can reduce the odds of that happening by going slower than normal in areas with poor lighting and dense animal population (think: wilderness).
As Campanella notes, “Depending on the size of the animal, a collision with your car can cause serious vehicle damage, resulting in body damage or broken windows. Take caution when you see an animal crossing sign and use your high beams at night when traveling in rural areas.”
The key is to be as visible and noticeable as possible to a wild animal.
Knowing all the road risks can keep you from becoming a statistic. While you may not always be able to avoid the accident, you can be prepared and take every action to minimize the damage, both to your car and your life. Drive carefully!