According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, an estimated 21,132 individuals lost their lives due to motor vehicle crashes in 2013 alone, and approximately 2.05 million were injured. While the percentage of injured vehicle occupants has decreased slightly in the past few years- partially due to increased safety belt usage and stricter distracted driving laws, the problem still remains.
Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents are a statewide problem in Illinois as well. With the fifth busiest interstate system in the United States and approximately 140,000 miles of Illinois roadways, the state saw approximately 274,000 car accidents in 2012, with an estimated 60,252 being injury accidents and another 886 resulting in fatalities. Just over half of these accidents occurred in Cook County alone.
What Are Some Common Causes of Car Accidents?
Understanding the common causes of motor vehicle accidents can help drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians stay safe as they travel to their destinations. Some of the more common causes of car crashes in Illinois include:
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- Distracted Driving: An experienced car accident attorney in Illinois will likely tell you that one of the most common causes of car accidents in the state is distracted driving. In fact, distracted driving accounts for anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of all motor vehicle accidents. While many states, including Illinois, have adopted laws that make cell phone usage illegal while driving, other distractions like loud music, adjusting the radio or an electronic device, rubbernecking, and even distractions caused by other passengers remain a threat.
- Driver Fatigue: Fatigue is a much more common cause of motor vehicle accidents in the United States than many people think, and the state of Illinois is not immune. In the United States, more than 100,000 motor vehicle accidents every year involving a driver who is too tired to operate a vehicle safely. A driver who is fatigued often has slower reaction times, putting himself and others in danger. Additionally, a fatigued driver could fall asleep at the wheel.
- Speeding: Speeding is the second most common cause of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Although it may be tempting to exceed the speed limit when drivers are in a hurry, the results can be catastrophic. Not only does it take more time for vehicles to slow down or stop when traveling at high rates of speed, but the damage that is done in a collision is typically significantly worse as well.
- Impaired Driving: When most people think of impaired driving, they picture driving drunk or while under the influence of illegal drugs. Unfortunately, however, an alarming number of motor vehicle accidents occur each year that involve a driver who is under the influence of their own over-the-counter or prescription medication.
Motor vehicle accidents can result in significant property damage, serious or disabling injuries and even death. Fortunately, many accidents can be prevented by following a few simple tips.
- Be Aware: Drivers should avoid using cell phones or other electronic devices, or anything else that takes their attention away from the road. It only takes a split second for a child or animal to run into the road, or for another vehicle to stop unexpectedly.
- Defensive Driving: It is important for drivers to remember that the guy in the next car could be impaired, distracted, or fatigued. Practicing defensive driving techniques like not following too closely, paying attention to the location of other vehicles, and expecting the unexpected can help prevent car accidents.
- Never Drive While Impaired: While drinking and driving causes an estimated 300,000 vehicle incidents in the United States every day, it is important to remember that many other issues can cause impairments in reaction time and judgment as well. Drivers should never operate a motor vehicle when beginning new medication until they know how they will react, never operate a vehicle while taking medication that alters thinking or reaction time, and never drive while ill or upset if possible.
- Traffic Laws: Remember that traffic laws are specifically designed to help keep Illinois roadways safe. Obey traffic signs and signals, and avoid exceeding the posted speed limits to help lower the risk of becoming involved in an auto accident.
Although many traffic accidents are preventable, some are not. Unfortunately, many innocent drivers and their passengers suffer significant property damage and severe injuries due to the actions or negligence of other drivers. When these accidents result in serious damage, it is often the victim who is left to pick up the pieces. An experienced car accident lawyer, however, can help people who are injured in a car crash obtain reimbursement for things like lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical bills.