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Avoiding the Fatal Mistakes That Lead to Car Accidents

The word accident indicates an essential truth: None of us intend to be involved in a serious or fatal car crash. Yet car accident injuries and fatalities happen every day on the highways and streets of the U.S.

When severe injuries or death happen due to human error, seeking advice from a car accident lawyer can help victims begin to put their lives back together. Of course, to avoid more of these tragic accidents, we should be aware of these potentially fatal driving mistakes and spread the word about the risks of these dangerous habits.


Driving under the influence is one of the most dangerous, and most preventable, mistakes you can make behind the wheel. In addition to drugs and alcohol, some prescription medications can also lead to blurred vision, poor judgment, hallucinations, or drowsiness.

Knowingly operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated is more than a dangerous mistake; it is a breach of the duty of a responsible driver and a criminal offense almost everywhere. An auto accident attorney can offer advice if you are injured or your loved one is killed by an intoxicated or impaired driver.


  • Abstain when you will be driving.
  • Do not drive if you are chemically impaired.
  • Take reasonable steps to prevent others from driving while intoxicated.

Failing to give your full attention to the task of driving qualifies as distracted driving. Anything which might cause you to miss a warning sign, an emergency siren, or the appearance of an obstacle could cause a serious or fatal crash. If a distracted driver caused your accident, reach out to a car accident attorney for advice on how to proceed.

As technology has become an integral part of modern vehicles, some of the very tools intended to make driving safer and easier can cause our attention to be pulled away from driving. Headphones and Bluetooth headsets can interfere with our ability to hear the sounds intended to alert us to trouble.

Sometimes we become habituated to our daily commute and begin to drive by autopilot, thinking that we can multitask behind the wheel. We try to increase the efficiency of our time at the expense of our ability to react to a sudden hazard in front or approaching danger from behind.


  • Do not multitask while driving, including but not limited to:
    • Applying makeup
    • Reading paperwork
    • Eating and drinking
    • Having an argument
    • Booting up or using devices
    • Programming the GPS
    • Changing music
  • Research shows that using a mobile phone negatively impacts driving performance.1 Avoid using your mobile phone while driving unless absolutely necessary.
  • Do not drive with headphones on or play audio so loud that you cannot easily hear horns and sirens nearby.
  • Proactively reduce distractions when entering construction zones or heavy traffic.

Driving when drowsy or fatigued is a dangerous mistake that is all too common in a society where most of us do not get enough sleep each night. Younger drivers are more impacted by lack of sleep, but older drivers are more likely to drive while tired. As many as 67% of drivers sampled indicate that they drive drowsily on a regular basis.1

Vehicle accident lawyers are aware of the number of single and multiple vehicle accidents caused by driving while drowsy. A sleepy driver experiences droopy eyelids and nods off or dozes for split seconds at first, and then for increasingly longer periods of time, often without being fully aware of it. It is estimated that 43% of Americans have fallen asleep behind the wheel at one time or another.2

In addition to the risk of falling asleep, fatigue impacts response time, ability to focus, and decision-making capability. Studies show that drowsy drivers make critical safety mistakes as often as drunk drivers.2 Driving when sleep-deprived is like driving under the influence.

Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving

If you find yourself showing any of these signs of drowsiness, you may be too tired to drive:

  • Your eyelids are heavy, you blink repeatedly, and you have trouble focusing.
  • You find yourself daydreaming, feeling detached, or drifting mentally.
  • You don’t remember the last few miles, or you miss exits and signage.
  • You lose track of time and where you are, or you feel disoriented.
  • You yawn frequently and have difficulty holding your head up.
  • You drift within your lane or are startled by hitting a rumble strip.


  • Drive only when you are well-rested, and never after more than 24 hours awake.
  • Drive during your normal waking hours.
  • Plan breaks in your trip to walk around briefly every 100 miles or two hours.
  • Drive with the buddy system on long trips and change drivers every two hours if possible.
  • Keep in mind that caffeine and other energy drinks provide only a short window of enhanced alertness before you become drowsy again.

Following too closely for conditions, or tailgating, is another dangerous mistake drivers make when they are in a hurry. Rear-end collisions often result in injuries, and a car accident lawyer understands how easily tailgating can turn into a personal injury case. As many as 23% of motor vehicle crashes are rear-end collisions, leading to 950,000 injury victims and more than 2000 deaths each year.3

An average vehicle needs at least 180 feet to stop at 60 mph. Even an alert driver needs time to respond, which takes at least 60 feet of distance. When conditions are slippery or a vehicle is towing a trailer or carrying significant weight, stopping distance can be up to four times longer than the often quoted 240 feet.

How Can You Tell if You Are Following Too Close?

As the vehicle in front of you passes a mile marker or signpost, count the seconds until the front of your vehicle reaches that same mark. In dry conditions, there should be at least three seconds between you. In wet or snowy conditions, if your vehicle is heavy, or if you are towing something, add at least two more seconds of distance to ensure you can stop in time.


  • Always follow at a safe distance for the existing conditions.
  • Take reasonable steps to allow other vehicles to pass you safely.
  • Use the right-hand lane except to pass.
  • Allow additional stopping distance in bad weather, on steep grades, or with heavy loads.

There is a reason that insurance companies raise rates if someone gets too many speeding tickets or moving violations. Making a habit of ignoring traffic laws, running red lights, and driving aggressively directly increases the chance of being involved in an accident. Research confirms that drivers who drive over the speed limit in bad weather crash more frequently.4

“Road Rage” is a real phenomenon that causes poor judgment and risky driving behaviors, especially in heavy traffic. If an aggressive or reckless driver causes your injuries, motor vehicle accident lawyers can help you prove that the accident was not your fault.


  • Obey speed limits and warning signs.
  • Be aware of traffic lights and do not race to “make” them.
  • If you feel frustrated with traffic, take a break from driving.
  • Drive defensively and do not engage in conflicts with other drivers.

Sometimes, no matter how well we practice responsible driving habits, the mistakes of others block our way forward. If a loved one or you are injured in an accident, having a car accident lawyer you can trust will help you choose the best path. Schechter, Shaffer & Harris have over 100 years of trial experience to help you get the compensation you and your family deserve.

Our personal injury law firm has won more than $720 million dollars for thousands of injury victims across the United States. When someone’s dangerous driving mistake brings your world to a standstill, don’t hesitate to contact us for the support and guidance you need right away. There is no fee unless you win your case, so there’s no reason to wait!


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4117653/
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowsydriving/index.html
  3. http://fleetanswers.com/content/why-tailgating-dangerous-driving-habit
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4117653/

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