One of the most valuable things you can learn when you’re behind the wheel is the ability to identify, assess and react quickly to a potential road hazard or dangerous situation. Unfortunately it’s all too common for people to make mistakes following an accident, and that can prove very costly. It’s quite understandable. If you’ve never experienced an accident before, it’s difficult to prepare yourself for the stress and panic you will probably encounter. It really helps to take the time to go through some various scenarios, so you might be better equipped should one of these sticky situations arise for you.
But first…some suitably scary statistics
Over the last 12 months there have been 1,141 road related deaths in Australia. That’s over three people per day. Single vehicle accidents are the most common accident resulting in death.
Want to see more scary statistics? Browse through our infographic and read on to learn about the common dangers drivers encounter on the road and how to handle accidents that may occur.
Common Human Errors That Cause Car Accidents
You know when you’re deep in thought and you suddenly realise you can’t remember consciously driving the last few sets of lights? We’ve all been there. It can be easy to fall into autopilot and be distracted by the busy-ness of our lives. Whether it be your mobile phone, the kids starting World War III in the back, or just our distracted thoughts, when your mind is not on the task at hand you are more susceptible to reacting poorly to a hazard.
Drunk or drug-driving
There really is no excuse here. People who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol are a dangerous weapon. Common sense, logic and control are out the window and reaction times are non-existent. It is literally an accident waiting to happen.
Driving tired is on par with driving under the influence. When your body is telling you to rest, and you make it push on while in control of a giant metal object, the outcome can be catastrophic. A five minute break and stretch of the legs is sometimes all that you need. Thankfully most highways across Australia have rest areas. Make use of them on your next long trip.
Speed limits (while sometimes they seem grossly underestimated) are limits for a reason. Speeding is the main cause of fatalities resulting from road accidents, yet it is so easily prevented. Don’t push the limit, it’s not worth it.
Other perhaps less dramatic human-error accident causing culprits;
Running red lights
This could be on purpose, or because you’re distracted. While it’s tempting to put the foot down when the amber light hits your eyes, remember that nobody else on the road (pedestrians included) know what you’re thinking. They’re simply being guided by the lights, and they probably trust that you will do the same.
Unsafe lane mergers
The world is in such a rush. Zig-zagging in and out of traffic and aggressively merging lanes might make people feel like they’re getting somewhere faster, but more often than not, they aren’t achieving much. What is certain, however, is that this manic unpredictable crazy merging behaviour puts all road users at risk. Failing to check blind spots when merging is another big cause of a bingle. Always glance over your shoulder before merging, your mirrors don’t always reflect your immediate surroundings.
Nose to tail collisions
Too close for comfort is exactly that. If you’re driving too close to the vehicle in front of you, you’re not doing yourself any favours. Any number of external or internal factors could cause that car to hit the brakes; the split seconds within which you have to respond are greatly reduced the closer your nose is to their tail. Give yourself the space and time to react accordingly and avoid an accident.
Types of Road Hazards That Can Cause Accidents
So, if you never speed or run a red light, always drive when alert, are never distracted, stay well back from the car in front and always merge safely you’ll be accident-free right? Even ‘perfect’ drivers will be thrown an external curve-ball on the road in their lifetime. Here are some environmental and external factors that can put you in a pickle fast.
It’s very common on our Aussie roads to have gravel shoulders and soft edges. If you take a corner at speed and wind up with wheels in the gravel, you could very easily find yourself in a spin. It’s tempting to try and regain control through swerving or hitting the brakes, but this will likely exacerbate the problem. The reaction of a champion is to take your foot off the accelerator and hold the wheel steady until you gain traction, and calmly get yourself under control.
Our furry and feathery coat of arms just LOVE to hang out on our roads, especially in remote areas (although don’t be animal-complacent in the city, remember the wallaby on Sydney Harbour Bridge?). There is a downright menagerie of animals that can wind up in front of you on the road: snakes, turtles, wombats, wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, goannas…even crocodiles…no kidding!
Sure rain is a pain for visibility, but it can also cause unforeseen mayhem on the asphalt. In Australia, we regularly experience long extended dry spells. During this time, the road surface accumulates a build up of grease, oil, grime and other goey contaminates. Once the rain hits this surface, and it’s usually in a deluge, the road surface can transform into a dangerous slick ice-skating rink for you and your car.
Objects and Debris
Particularly in cases where you’re experiencing bad weather, it’s common for tree branches to fall onto the road, or other airborne debris to get in your way. Hailstones can appear out of nowhere and cause devastating damage to your car and windscreen. The best way to lessen the impact of debris is to drop your speed, take it easy and seek shelter asap.
When Do Most Car Accidents Occur?
Anytime you get behind the wheel dangers could be lurking ahead, but there are actually certain dates and times that are safer than others for road travel. Youi ran some stats with their collision data to determine when car accidents are most likely to occur on Aussie roads, and which types of car accidents are most common.
The results are interesting:
- 16% of car accidents occur on a Friday
- Peak accident times are between 8am – 9am and 3pm – 6pm on weekdays, accounting for 27.1% of all collision claims
- 23% of all collisions are a rear-end accident
- Sunday is the safest day to hop behind the wheel. Only 10.5% of all collision claims occur on a Sunday.
So, all you need to do is avoid peak hour/s at all costs! If only it were that simple.
What to do After a Car Accident
Very few experienced drivers can say they’ve never been involved in a car accident of some kind. It is to be expected that someday this will happen to you. The actions you take following an accident are very important.
Seek medical treatment if someone has been hurt, and call the police if the accident needs attention. Avoid getting into an argument with other drivers about who is in the right or wrong. The police will mediate this, and prepare a crash report to support your insurance claim.
Inform your insurance company of the accident straight away. Take photos of the scene and damage (where appropriate) and make sure you remain at the scene to speak to the police and authorities.
Never hit and run. If you’ve done the wrong thing, you’ll get caught eventually. Even if the damage is done to a road sign and not a person or another vehicle – it’s still an accident, and hit and run is considered a serious crime.
Make sure your vehicle is fixed before you drive it. Never drive with broken windows or a damaged windscreen. Not only is it illegal, but it’s extremely hazardous, which can easily lead to another accident. When the safety and integrity of your car is compromised, you’re putting everyone on the road in danger.
After all involved have contacted their insurance companies, usually the insurance companies will work together to come to a resolution. If the cause of the accident proves to be complex and ends up in dispute, there is a possibility you may need a lawyer.
Stay Calm, Concentrate and Drive Safely
The best thing you can do on the road, is concentrate on what you’re doing and stay hyper-vigilant. Observe your surroundings and constantly scan the road and vehicles around you. If the unexpected happens, remain calm and do the right thing. There are a lot of cars on the road now and we all need to look out for each other at all times.