Road safety essentials: How to keep your family safe
Whether you’re a driver, passenger, bicyclist, or pedestrian, road safety is important. According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, more than 38,000 people die every year as a result of car accidents in the U.S., and these accidents are the number one cause of death for people under the age of 55. Fortunately, many of these accidents are preventable with the adoption of road safety measures and an increase in awareness of these measures.
What is road safety, and why is it important?
Safety is freedom from harm or danger, so road safety is essentially that same freedom while using the road. You can do your part to maintain it in a lot of different ways like always wearing a seatbelt, staying alert when behind the wheel, and following all posted road signs.
Road safety can actually save lives, which makes it something everyone should strive to include in their day-to-day activities.
This article will dive into how to practice road safety within different areas. We’ll cover distracted driving, bicycle safety, and child passenger safety, among other important topics. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into any of these topics, just click on the above links to get started.
What is the main cause of car accidents?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that the top three causes for auto accidents include distracted driving, speeding and impaired driving.
Distracted driving is anything that takes your attention away from driving. This could be sending a text message, snacking behind the wheel, or even simply adjusting the volume of your music. Distracted driving causes more car accidents than any other accident cause, although it is not the most fatal.
- NHTSA reported that 3,142 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2019.
- A Life360 analysis of more than 84 billion miles of driving data found that distracted drivers are 21 times more likely to drive faster than the posted speed limit, 12 times more likely to rapidly accelerate, and seven times more likely to hard brake.
- That same analysis shows that distracted drivers in general are four times more likely to cause a collision.
Speeding is a top cause of traffic fatalities, usually comprising around a third of the annual deaths caused by car crashes. Interestingly, speeding does not actually save you that much time, and it is certainly not worth the increased risk.
Impaired driving is hands down the largest threat to life that Americans face on the road every year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each day 29 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes that involve a driver under the influence of alcohol. This amounts to one death every 50 minutes.
How serious of a problem is impaired driving?
- The NHTSA determined that 10,142 people died from drunk driving crashes in 2019 in the U.S.
- Illegal or legal drugs are involved in nearly 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
- Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of death for young Americans aged 15-24 years old.
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How does the weather affect driving?
Dangerous weather accounts for a substantial number of car accidents in the United States. Weather related accidents account for 15% of fatal crashes and 19% of injury crashes every year. According to the United States Department of Public Transportation, the average annual number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities caused by the weather were:
- 1,235,145 accidents
- 418,005 persons injured
- 5,376 persons killed
Road safety tips
- Watch your speed
Speeding is a leading cause of traffic accidents. The faster you’re driving, the more likely you are to cause a collision.
- Put down that phone
Studies have found that accidents are connected to the use of technology in the car — especially the use of phones. When looking at Crash Detection occurrences, a phone event (distraction) was found in 88% of those occurrences. Additionally, almost half (46%) of survey respondents felt that more technology in the car has made driving more distracting, and of that group, 76% said screens (smartphones) were the most distracting piece of technology.
- Never, ever drive impaired
The figures speak for themselves as to how dangerous drinking under the influence is. Drunk driving results in the death of 29 people every day in the U.S. Despite that, a study found that 30% of respondents believed they were fine to drive after drinking.
- Seat belts, seat belts, seat belts!
Seat belts save lives. According to the NHTSA, seat belts saved 14,955 lives in 2017.
- Drive cautiously in bad weather
Bad weather leads to bad driving conditions. It’s as simple as that. Being aware of the dangers of changing road conditions caused by weather and taking extra caution can help you and your loved ones avoid accidents.
- Cycle with safety
Cars aren’t the only vehicles on the road. Bicycle safety is very much a part of road safety. Unfortunately, preventable accidents to cyclists continue to rise year-on-year, and 712 bicyclists died in vehicle collisions in 2019.
- Children should be in car seats
Whether it’s your infant in a traditional car seat or your older child in a booster, children up to age twelve or a height of 4 foot 9 inches should typically be buckled into some sort of car seat in the back seat of the car.
- Walk on sidewalks when possible
Pedestrians use the road too. In 2019, the NHTSA found that 6205 pedestrians were killed in driving collisions. Using designated sidewalks is an important part of pedestrian safety.
- Take care of your vehicle
Windshield wiper fluid, oil, gas. Make sure all your levels are topped up, and your tires look good before getting on the road.
- Follow traffic rules and posted signs
Traffic rules and posted signs exist to keep you safe. Ignoring them can result in a collision
How can road safety be improved?
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) routinely makes recommendations to government agencies on upgrades they can make to roads to decrease the number of accidents each year. Some of the most popular recommendations include:
- Adding median barriers: Median barriers are barriers between opposing traffic on a highway. FHWA saw a 97% reduction in cross-median crashes when they were installed on rural four-lane freeways.
- Installing roundabouts: Replacing traffic signals with roundabouts significantly reduces the number of collisions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found reductions in injury crashes of more than 72% when traffic signals and stop signs were replaced with roundabouts in the U.S.
- Adding rumble strips: Rumble strips cause your car to vibrate and make a loud noise when you either cross over the center or edge line of a road, which can happen if you are distracted or drowsy.
Technology is improving everywhere we look, and the road is no exception. From inside your car to on your smart device, there are countless new ways to keep yourself safe when you get in your car.
- Safety electronics: In-car technology has grown leaps and bounds since its inception. What started out as seatbelts has evolved into automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning systems.
- Apps: There are numerous apps out there designed to help make your driving experience safer. Whether they prevent you from sending text messages, transmit your location to family members, or track behaviors such as speeding, you can use apps to make sure you arrive at your destination safe and sound.
Improving driving education
Driver education is how most of us learn the rules of the road. Improving this education to include things like computer-based training could enable us to experience and react to hazards and crashes in real time. Increasing the amount of on-road instruction drivers receive could also reduce the likelihood of future accidents. And don’t worry if it has been a while since you’ve taken driver’s ed, there are many defensive driving courses offered especially for seniors.
Share the road – Road safety is everyone’s responsibility
Cars. Buses. Bikes. Motorcycles. Scooters. Pedestrians. The road is a busy place. And sometimes it can be a dangerous one. But we can all do our part to make the road safer by practicing better road safety.
As the largest source of driving data in the world, leveraging more than 200 billion miles annually, Life360 provides safety insights into driving behavior to better protect family members on the go via location sharing, day-to-day communications, driver updates, emergency response features, and more.
That’s why Life360 is trusted by more than 35 million members worldwide.