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3 common causes of car accidents - and how to avoid them

In the aftermath of a car wreck, it's only natural to wonder what you could have done differently. Were you driving too fast? Could more regular vehicle maintenance have saved a life?

Instead of torturing yourself after the fact, you can use these questions to reduce your risk of accidents going forward. Examining the causes of your car accident may also give you the knowledge you need to take effective legal action.

Here are some of the most common causes of car accidents and a few suggestions on how you might be able to prevent them.

1. Driver distraction

In the U.S., distracted driving claims the lives of thousands of people annually and causes hundreds of thousands of injuries. With more than half a million drivers using cellphones while they're on the road during daylight hours, this is a huge risk factor.

How can you minimize the hazard? Remember that it's not just about watching out for other inattentive drivers. Make your journeys safer by focusing on the road, avoiding mobile device usage and skipping activities like eating or drinking while driving.

2. Fatigue

Despite what car commercials would have you believe, driving isn't usually an exhilarating experience, nor should it be. Unfortunately, many people get behind the wheel when they're not fully alert - or drive for such long periods that they inevitably grow weary. If this sounds familiar, you could be at heightened risk of succumbing to potentially deadly fatigue.

Drivers who don't get enough sleep exhibit similarities to individuals who decide to drive drunk. From slower reaction times to worse decision-making skills, fatigue can significantly lower your chances of staying safe. Always get enough sleep and break up long drives with naps if necessary. Additionally, minimize your caffeine intake. Although it might provide a short-term energy boost, it can cause you to crash later.

3. Aggressive, impatient driving

You may be in a hurry to reach your destination, but pushing the limits of sensible driving places you at risk. For instance, if you switch lanes aggressively, cut people off, make rolling stops, tailgate other vehicles or try to beat red lights, you increase your chances of hitting pedestrians, striking other cars or being hit yourself.

Driving is a big responsibility. We can all take steps to follow safe driving practices and make them good habits.

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