A hazard is a source of danger. When driving, it forces you to change your speed or steering to avoid a collision. To say that driving can be dangerous is an understatement. In 2019, 38,800 people were killed in car accidents in the United States. Ninty-five percent of all vehicles involved in fatal car accidents were passenger cars or light trucks (vans, SUVs, or pickup trucks).
The leading cause of occupational fatalities is vehicle-related crashes. The "Fatal Four" most frequent causes of death and injury on our roads in 2018 were:
Click the button to see a list of other common causes for vehicle-related crashes.
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Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that's one person every 50 minutes. These deaths have fallen by a third in the last three decades; however, drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year. That's about one-third of the 36,560 people killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways during 2018. (NHTSA)
An alcohol-impaired-driving fatality is defined as a fatality in a crash involving a driver or motorcycle rider (operator) with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or greater.
Alcohol is a substance that reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination. All these abilities are essential to operating a vehicle safely.
BAC is measured with a breathalyzer, a device that measures the amount of alcohol in a driver's breath or by a blood test. Click on the button to see the effects blood alcohol concentration has on driving.
|Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in g/dL||Typical Effects||Predictable Effects on Driving|
|.02||Some loss of judgment; relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood||Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target), decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention)|
|.05||Exaggerated behavior, may have loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, usually good feeling, lowered alertness, release of inhibition||Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situations|
|.08||Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired||Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search), impaired perception|
|.10||Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking||Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately|
|.15||Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), major loss of balance||Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing|
For more information about drunk driving statistics and laws in your state, see the CDC's Sobering Facts: Alcohol-Impaired Driving State Fact Sheets.
Following drunk driving in the "Fatal Four," speeding is involved in about 26% of all motor vehicle fatalities. In 2018, speeding killed 9,378 drivers. We all know the frustrations of modern life and juggling a busy schedule, but speed limits are put in place to protect all road users. Learn about the dangers of speeding and why faster doesn't mean safer.
Speeding also affects your safety when driving at the speed limit but too fast for road conditions. This is true especially in bad weather, when a road is under repair, or in an area at night that isn't well lit.
Speeding endangers the speeder's life and all of the people on the road around them, It is a problem we all need to help solve. NHTSA provides guides and toolkits to help spread the message about safe driving, including tips on what you can do if you encounter an aggressive driver on the road.
Speeding is more than just breaking the law. The consequences are far-ranging. Click the button to see the far-ranging consequences of speeding.
Speeding is a type of aggressive driving behavior. According to estimates by the AAA Foundation's Annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, millions of drivers engaged in angry and aggressive behaviors in the 30 days before the survey.
Click the button to see examples of aggressive driving behaviors.
Click the button to see the various factors that have contributed to an overall rise in aggressive driving.
Reckless driving is the third leading cause in the "Fatal Four" of driving fatalities. A person who drives a motor vehicle with "wanton disregard." The driver is aware of and consciously disregarding the risk that their driving may harm another's property.
Click the button to see examples of reckless driving
Careless driving rarely includes deliberate disregard or extreme indifference to the rights of others. However, driving that endangers or is likely to endanger property or any person, including the driver or passengers of the vehicle, is guilty of careless driving. The definition varies from state to state. In some states, reckless driving is also called careless driving or dangerous driving.
Click on button to see examples of careless driving.
Examples that may include actions that are inconsiderate of other vehicle operators on the road:
Distracted driving is number four in the "Fatal Four" that causes about 25% of all driving fatalities. It’s six times more likely to lead to a car accident than driving drunk. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving. It includes talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, or anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.
Driving distractions fall into one of three categories:
Texting is considered the most dangerous form of distraction because it involves all three distraction categories. Consequently, most states have declared texting to be illegal when operating a moving vehicle.
According to the NHTSA, 660,000 drivers use electronic devices while driving. Distracted driving claimed 2,841 of those lives in 2018.
You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.
Safe driving is only accomplished when the driver is sober and focused.
Click on the button to see a list of examples of distracted driving behaviors that increase the likelihood that you'll have an accident.
Common distractions include:
You can see the distracted driving laws in your state by visiting the Governor's Highway Safety Association's Distracted Driving website.
Research shows that nearly 83.6 million sleep-deprived people are in the workplace, at school, or driving on the road. Click the button to see the three factors that most often cause drowsy-driving crashes.
A drowsy driver is an unsafe driver because performance is negatively impacted. Drowsy driving symptoms are similar to those experienced while driving while under the influence of alcohol. In fact, driving for 20 hours without sleep makes you as dangerous as someone driving with a .08% Blood Alcohol Concentration. Click the button to see the effects that make drowsy driving so dangerous.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, certain warning signs indicate you may be sleep-deprived. Click the button to see the warning signs to watch for if you're concerned about drowsy driving.
Warning signs include:
For more information on drowsy driving, see the National Road Safety Association's website
You can't drive safely if you're impaired. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, In the U.S., over 40% of the drivers involved in fatal car crashes tested positive for drugs.
It's illegal everywhere in America to drive under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, opioids, methamphetamines, or potentially impairing over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Driving while impaired by any substance—legal or illegal—puts you and others in harm's way.
Many substances can impair driving, including some over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs. Click the button to see the effects of various drugs on drug-impaired driving.
Click on the button to see information about the effects of drugs on driving.
Violating state DUI laws that make it illegal to drive impaired by any substance can result in arrest. This includes prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.
Impaired drivers can't accurately assess their own impairment – which is why no one should drive after using any impairing substances. Remember: If you feel different, you drive differently.
To learn more about the perils of impaired driving, visit NHTSA's Drug-Impaired Driving website.
For drivers and passengers, seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce crash injuries. Yet millions do not buckle up on every trip.
A total of 22,697 drivers and passengers in passenger vehicles died in motor vehicle crashes in 2018. More than half of those fatalities were not buckled up at the time of the crash. As the video emphasizes, many drivers and passengers are injured or killed in a crash when struck by others sitting behind who are not wearing seat belts. Exposure to unbelted occupants increases the risk of injury or death to other occupants in the vehicle by 40 percent (MacLennan et al., 2004).
More than 2.2 million drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments due to being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2018. Young adult drivers and passengers (18-24) have the highest crash-related non-fatal injury rates of all adults.
The consequences of failing to properly wear seat belts can not only be tragic for the victims; they can be horrific for those who witness the consequences. Click on the button to see list of consequences and a video showing what can happen instantly to those now wearing seat belts. (Caution: The video is graphic)
The consequences of not wearing, or improperly wearing, a seat belt are clear:
For more information about the use of seat belts in your state, see the CDC's Buckle Up: Restraint Use State Fact Sheets.
Driving your vehicle in hazardous conditions, such as snow, heavy rain, or thick fog, is a matter of preparation, practice, and caution. And just because it is not a blizzard does not mean conditions are not hazardous.
Click the button to see more examples of other hazardous road conditions you may encounter.
Other types of hazardous road conditions include:
Driving safely in winter weather can be a challenge for even the most experienced driver. It’s easy to forget after months of mild conditions that snow and ice demand careful driving and special preparation for your vehicle. When many vehicle crashes occur during winter conditions such as black ice, lack of visibility, and loss of control, we could all use a reminder.
Click on the button to see a list of dangerous winter driving situations you may encounter.
Dangerous situations you may encounter during winter driving include:
Take a look at this great video by Smart Test Drive on ten defensive driving tips.Next Module