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


Ten ways to crash

The majority of crash-causers are driver error and the few that aren’t can be mitigated through driver alertness.  Statistically, there are ten top causal factors in motor vehicle wrecks — please note and avoid them.

1) Distraction

I’ve written of the many forms of driver distraction.  You are at risk any moment that your eyes or mental attention are diverted from the driving task.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distraction, from phone use to passenger interaction, continues to be the number one cause of highway crashes and deaths.

2) Speed

Vying for top spot is excess vehicle speed.  Those travelling too fast to stop or too fast to negotiate curves are incessantly involved in single and multiple vehicle wrecks.  Most drivers can operate safely within speed limits — at higher speeds, not so much.

3) Impairment

While driving drunk is a major source of mayhem, it is not the only way drivers are impaired.  Prescribed and recreational drugs, along with medical conditions, account for a solid share of roadway trouble.  Strive to be in proper condition to drive.

4) Aggression

Driving with a bullying attitude takes away the margin of safety necessary to avoid accidents.  A calm and forgiving demeanor is best for driving — if you have that, it eliminates the chance of two aggressive drivers meeting when you encounter one.

5) 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 allows an attentive driver to avoid striking the vehicle ahead if it stops suddenly — shorter following gaps will not, given reaction time and stopping distance.

6) Fatigue

This is actually another form of impairment.  But as a catastrophe-impetus, causing over 100,000 smashups per year, fatigue deserves its own category.  If you are about to nod off, either pull over and do so or hand off the driving to a less sleepy passenger.

7) 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 their vehicle limitations in bad weather.

8) Equipment failure

This may be the only category drivers have low 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 departing wheel, it’s improbable.  And it’s virtually impossible if the driver follows a regular maintenance program, keeping safety-related items like tires and brakes up to par.

9) Road design

A small number of smashes are attributable to road design, such as poorly engineered on/off ramps, improper signage or low-spots accumulating water.  But alert drivers, expecting the unexpected, are able to accommodate these shortcomings.

10) Road maintenance

Potholes, cracks, gravel over roadway or summer-slickened tar spots are things that conscientious drivers can usually avoid — just ask any motorcyclist — they have to do it all the time.  Nevertheless, road shortcomings are often listed as accident causes.

Even if you have mastery over that list of weaknesses, many drivers do not.  That’s why you must drive for yourself and everyone else in your proximity on the roadways to avoid mishaps.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at