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


Easy paths to disaster

With over 5 million U.S. vehicle crashes annually, there are plenty of statistics revealing typical accident causes.  But I believe that most “accidents” are preventable mishaps, especially if drivers identify and avoid those causes.

The most common ones reflect driver-error and the others can be mitigated through driver alertness.   Statistically, the following are top causal factors to note and avoid:


Driver distraction comes in many forms.  Essentially, you are at risk any moment that your eyes or mental attention are diverted from the task of driving.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distraction — cell phone use to insect-shooing — distraction is the number one cause of highway crashes and deaths.


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


While driving drunk is the root of much mayhem, it’s not the only way drivers operate ill-prepared.  Prescribed and recreational drugs, along with medical conditions, account for a solid share of roadway trouble.  Strive to be in proper condition to drive.


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


Celebrating your favorite team’s 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.


Sleepy drivers are really practicing distraction or impairment.  As a prelude to driving catastrophes, though, causing over 100,000 wrecks 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.


Foul weather —f og, 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”  adverse road conditions and know the limitations of their vehicles.

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 or dislodged tie-rod, it’s improbable — virtually impossible if the car’s owner follows a regular maintenance program and keeps safety-related items up to par.

Road design

A small number of smashups 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, can 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 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 disastrous mishaps misnamed as “accidents.”

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at