Driving’s More Dangerous Hazards

Posted: January 26, 2024

The dangers of texting while driving is well-documented. Sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – long enough at 55 mph to drive the length of a football field.  

And yet there’s an even more common breed of distracted driver than the texter, studies suggest, and that’s the daydreamer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in fact, there are more non-technology-based sources of distraction than many people may realize, including 

  • smoking; 
  • eating and drinking; 
  • reaching for objects; 
  • personal grooming; 
  • reacting to an insect inside the vehicle; 
  • interacting with passengers; and 
  • being lost in thought. 

 

Driver distractions can be deadly. In 2021 alone, they were a factor in 3,522 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. What qualifies as a distraction? The NHTSA says it’s “any activity that diverts attention from driving,” including eating, drinking, adjusting the volume on the stereo, programming or consulting a navigation system, and using a mobile phone for talking or texting.  

 

The Center for Disease Control states that young adults and teen drivers are more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors. A higher percentage of drivers ages 15-20 were distracted than those 21 and older, according to a summary of statistical findings recently published by the NHTSA.  

That there are no highway signs warning drivers against daydreaming or the myriad other things motorists do to put themselves and others in harm’s way doesn’t mean those activities aren’t dangerous in their own right. It only means that keeping your safety top of mind is on you. 

 

The kinds of driving hazards 

 

Driving hazards can be common, uncommon, unknowable, or counterintuitive. 

  • Common driving hazards include merging onto a highway. 
  • Uncommon driving hazards include a loose manhole cover or a deer walking into the road. 
  • Unknowable driving hazards include unfocused motorists.  
  • Counterintuitive driving hazards are pleasant things that can kill – a sunny day, a good mood, an anticipated rendezvous – by causing you to daydream or otherwise stop concentrating on the road. There’s also habituation, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a decrease in responsiveness upon repeated exposure to a stimulus” and is one of driving’s greater hazards. 

  

 Among the many driver actions that must be undertaken with great care so they don’t pose a hazard are:    

  • Using cruise control  

Generally speaking, cruise control allows a driver to set a speed and maintain it without having to keep a foot on the gas pedal.  

Some motorists find cruise control makes driving easier, especially on a long drive. Others see it as potentially dangerous in that, coupled with certain other factors, it has the potential to lead to distracted driving. Motorists who use cruise control sometimes don’t keep their mind on the road or hands on the wheel, and that can be potentially hazardous.  Cruise control also can be risky in that it maintains the same speed regardless of changes in weather or traffic.   

  • Backing up  

  

According to some reports, most drivers spend less than one percent of their time driving in reverse. And yet thousands of back-over accidents cause injuries every year. 

Unsafe driving practices are to blame for many backing accidents. Long truck beds limit rear vision. Auto bodies, too, can block a driver’s view – of other vehicles, of pedestrians, of obstacles in the road. New York law says a driver “shall not back [up] unless such movement can be made with safety and without interfering with other traffic” or “upon any shoulder or roadway of any controlled-access highway.”     

In its driver’s manual, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles provides helpful information about how to back up when parallel parking, which, the DMV says, “many motorists consider … the most difficult part of driving.”    

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that back-over/back-up accidents injure thousands and kill hundreds every year in the United States. Most back-over fatalities and injuries involve passenger vehicles, and most victims are under 5 years old or over 70.  

Aside from following the rules of the road, here are some tips that motorists might want to consider when backing up. Of course, these are just general ideas, and best practices will depend on the overall circumstances:  

  

  1. Keep shrubs near driveway trimmed.   
  2. Teach children “feet on lawn” when a car starts.  
  3. Walk around your car before backing up.  
  4. Park in less-traveled areas of lots.   
  5. Invest in a good back-up camera.  

  

  • Navigating objects in the road  

  

Safe drivers tend to look out for possible obstacles and attempt to avoid accident situations. As the day goes by, the vast majority of drivers manage to avoid any real problems and get home safely. But there are some drivers who come across dangers that are not very common at all. Some of the most common street features can become extremely dangerous to even the safest drivers.  

  

One example of such a feature is the manhole and manhole cover. Municipal workers access sewers and underground phone and water lines through street and sidewalk openings called manholes. Heavy metal discs called manhole covers enable traffic to pass safely over these openings, but some of the discs come loose, settle below street level, or are left off by work crews, posing a potentially fatal hazard. While many loose manhole covers do no more than damage a car, some have been churned into the air by a passing car or truck and gone flying through another vehicle’s windshield, killing the driver.  

  

Hurt in a car? Call William Mattar.   

At William Mattar, P.C., our personal-injury attorneys focus on motor vehicle accidents. We know that for most people involved in crashes the aftermath of an accident is unfamiliar territory. So, we can protect your rights and attend to the legal aspects of your case, advocating for you to receive maximum compensation for pain and suffering while you focus on recovering. Call us at 844-444-4444, or complete our online form requesting a free consultation.  

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