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Understanding where traffic accidents tend to happen

Thousands of people are injured or killed in auto accidents across Colorado every year. As drivers, we all play a role in keeping roads safe. Understanding what contributes to these accidents - and where they occur - is vital to preventing them.

When most people envision serious car accidents, they picture a long road trip, perhaps driving through snow or ice after dark. It is true that more than half of all traffic fatalities nationwide take place on rural roads. Higher speed limits, greater risk of distraction, heavier trucking traffic and higher incidence of driver fatigue may all contribute to these accidents.

Considering all types of accidents, though, road trips aren't the biggest danger. You're most likely to get into an accident on your day-to-day commute, when you're close to home.

Why your daily driving habits matter

According to a prominent auto insurance survey, more than 2/3 of all traffic accidents happen within 15 miles of home. Of these, approximately half occur within five miles, and nearly one-quarter occur within a mile.

The reasons behind these statistics aren't entirely clear. One factor is the amount of time spent behind the wheel. Your daily commute - not to mention gas stops, grocery shopping, school activities and other errands - likely encompasses a 20-mile-or-less radius around your home. The familiarity of these routes may also make drivers more susceptible to inattention. You may be more likely to go on "autopilot" or give into distractions during your day-to-day life than you would during a road trip.

Narrowing it down further

Of all the roads around your home, which areas are most prone to accidents?

The answer isn't surprising. Overall, intersections pose the greatest danger. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that more than half of all accidents involve intersections. Of these, a staggering 96 percent can be attributed to driver error, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Most often, the at-fault drivers simply fail to look. They might be distracted by cellphones or boisterous kids in the back seat. They might be drooping with exhaustion after a long day at work. Even if they did see you, they might have misjudged your speed or distance.

Parking lots and garages are also accident hotspots. Confusing traffic patterns, cars backing out, pedestrians weaving in and out of aisles, and obstructed vision all make for a dangerous combination. Even at slow speeds, accidents in parking areas can cause serious injuries. Of course, if a pedestrian gets hit, the consequences could be fatal.

So what's the takeaway?

Even the most experienced drivers can benefit from regular safety refreshers. These statistics illustrate just how important it is to practice safe driving habits all the time - especially when you're close to home.

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