Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Avoid the holiday crash

While trying to beat, deal with or avoid the “holiday rush,” we must also strive to avoid the holiday crash.  I believe that most “accidents” are preventable mishaps — especially if drivers identify and avoid the common causes.

The majority of crashes are a result of driver error and even those that aren’t can be mitigated through driver alertness.  Following are the top ten crash causers—please note and avoid them.

Distraction:  Driver distraction comes in many forms, and you are at risk any moment that your attention is diverted from the task of driving.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distraction, from electronic device use to interacting with passengers, continues to be the number one cause of highway crashes and deaths.

Speed:  Those travelling too fast to stop or negotiate curves are incessantly involved in single and multiple vehicle wrecks.  Most drivers can operate safely within speed limits — at higher speeds, it’s a crapshoot.

Impairment:  While driving drunk is the foundation of much mayhem, it is not the only way drivers operate ill-prepared.  Prescribed and recreational drugs account for a solid share of roadway trouble.  Always be in proper condition to drive.

Aggression:  Drivers with a bullying attitude often lack the margin of safety necessary to avoid accidents.  A calm and forgiving demeanor works best for driving — if you have that, it eliminates the chance of two aggressive drivers meeting when you encounter one.

Tailgating:  Celebrating your favorite team in the stadium parking lot is fine; following other vehicles too closely is not.  Maintaining a two-second following distance at city speeds and at least a three-second distance at highway speeds will allow an attentive driver to avoid rear end collisions when the vehicle ahead stops abruptly; shorter following gaps may not.

Fatigue:  Sleepy drivers are actually distracted and impaired.  But causing over 100,000 smashups per year, fatigue deserves its own category.  If you feel like you’re going to nod off, either pull over and do so or hand off the driving to a passenger.

Weather:  Fog, rain, snow and ice are named as causes for numerous vehicle crashes.  Of course, affected drivers like to cite excuses that absolve them from blame, but their failure to properly identify and adapt to weather conditions is the real culprit.  Good drivers master an ability to “read” road conditions and know the limitations of their vehicles when those conditions become adverse.

Equipment failure:  This may be the only category drivers have little control over — it’s also one of the least prevalent causes of wrecks.  While a potential pileup may come from a tire blowout, broken spring or dislodged tie-rod, it’s improbable.  It’s virtually impossible if the car’s owner properly maintains safety-related items like tires and brakes.

Road design:  Some smashes are attributable to road design, like poorly engineered ramps, improper signage or low-spots accumulating water.  But alert drivers, expecting the unexpected, are able to accommodate these shortcomings.

Road maintenance:  Though often offered as an excuse for crashing, potholes, cracks, gravel over roadway or summer-slickened tar spots are things that a conscientious driver can usually avoid.  Just ask any motorcyclist — they have to do it all the time.

Even if you have mastery over this list of problems, remember that many drivers do not.  That’s why you must drive for yourself and everyone else in your proximity on the roadways to avoid mishaps misnamed as “accidents.”

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at