Cars crumpled or overturned on the road are unfortunately not an uncommon sight throughout Canada. Although crash numbers are down from where they stood decades ago, far too many people are still hurt or killed in car accidents each year.
According to Transport Canada, in 2015, there were 1,669 fatal crashes nationwide, and 116,735 crashes with at least one injured person.
As drivers pass the scenes of these accidents, they may wonder how they can avoid the same fate. While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of a collision due to circumstances out of one’s own control, drivers should be aware of common causes of accidents so as to avoid these factors in their own driving and watch for them in others.
Here in British Columbia, ICBC has identified a number of common contributing factors to traffic fatalities, including speed, impairment, distraction, and high-risk driving.
Speed limits are posted for a reason. At high speeds, drivers have less time to stop and to react to other vehicles’ movements or changes in the road. They may even lose control of their car. Weather conditions can even make driving at otherwise reasonable speeds dangerous, especially if there is water, snow, or ice on the road. ICBC reports that 92 people were killed on British Columbia roads in 2016 due to speeding, with 44 of those involving dangerous road conditions.
When conditions are fair, speeding is one of the easiest hazards to avoid in your own driving and to spot in others. Remember not to drive at excessive speeds above the speed limit, especially if there are other cars around you. If there is water, snow or ice on the road, take care to reduce your speed accordingly so that you have time to stop and do not spin out of control. In any case, if you see other drivers moving at excessive speeds, keep an eye on them, do not make any sudden movements or lane changes in front of them, and avoid them if possible.
Driving is a mental exercise, so it should come as no surprise that impairments to a person’s ability to think are a major cause of car accidents and fatalities. Alcohol and drugs create one of the most dangerous and talked-about of these impairments. A driver who is drunk or high is unable to act and react on their feet and may be unable to keep steady control of their car, posing a grave danger to other cars around them. In 2016, ICBC recorded 67 traffic fatalities in British Columbia as a result of alcohol, drugs, or medication.
A lesser-known but still hazardous form of impairment is drowsy driving. Drivers often nod off at the wheel without even knowing it. Even when this “microsleep” lasts only a few seconds, any moment that a driver is asleep has the potential to be fatal.
There are simple steps you can take to avoid impaired driving. If you plan to drink, be sure to have a designated driver. If you are unsure whether you have had too much to drive, it is best to err on the side of caution and assume you are beyond the legal limit.
Avoiding drowsy driving is a bit more difficult, but there are still measures you can take. Ensure that you are getting enough sleep at night. If you feel particularly tired, try not to drive alone. As for other drivers who may be impaired, it is often easy to spot them on the road. Watch for cars that are swerving in lanes or making other awkward movements or fluctuations in speed. These are cars you should try to avoid if at all possible.
“Keep your eyes on the road” may sound like a cliché, but it is advice that goes unheeded all too often. As new forms of technology become more and more prevalent, it is becoming easier than ever to become distracted behind the wheel.
Drivers often think they can turn their attention elsewhere, assuming that they know what is happening on the road, only to find that conditions have suddenly changed. Looking away for even a few seconds to read or respond to a text message can mean driving into cross-traffic or slamming into the next car ahead that just slammed on its brakes.
Distracted driving does not even have to involve technology. It can also mean looking down to reach for food, or even looking back to see what the kids are up to in the back seat, for example.
According to ICBC, there were 78 distraction-related traffic fatalities in British Columbia in 2016. The easiest way to truly avoid distracted driving is to keep your eyes on the road. Whatever else is competing for your attention can usually wait until you arrive at your destination. If it cannot wait, find a place to pull over before attending to it. Other distracted drivers may be difficult to spot, but if you see drivers who seem to have a slowed reaction time or if you can see through the window that they are obviously texting or otherwise distracted, try to avoid them.
Some accidents involve a reckless driver who, despite being unimpaired and undistracted, nonetheless chooses to make risky moves on the road. This behaviour can include anything from running stop signs to taking dangerous left turns to tailgating the driver in front of them, for example. All of these actions put not only the driver, but all drivers around them, in danger.
According to ICBC, 2016 saw 123 traffic fatalities in British Columbia that were at least partially the result of high-risk driving. Avoiding these risks yourself is fairly straightforward: use your best judgment, follow traffic laws, and if you ever have a doubt about whether you can make a turn or other maneuver in time, assume you cannot. It is better to be a minute or two late to your destination than to end up in a collision.
It is more difficult to see these behaviours in other drivers before they make a dangerous move. High-risk drivers are unpredictable, and may seem perfectly safe until it is too late. Do your best to watch out for dangerous driving moves. For example, if you see another driver tailgating someone or making an illegal turn, even if that particular action does not cause an accident, do not assume that the next risky move they pull will not. Avoid these drivers so that you are not in the path of their next dangerous maneuver.
Taking Legal Action After a Car Accident
Despite your best efforts to control your own driving, you can never control other drivers on the road. If you find yourself unable to avoid an accident and the responsible driver was practicing any of the risky behaviours listed above or any other type of negligence, you may be able to win monetary compensation in a lawsuit.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you build a strong case and increase your chances of holding the responsible party accountable, whatever the cause of the accident. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, contact the Vancouver car accident lawyers with Klein Lawyers by phone or online for more information about how we can help.