Driver irresponsibility causes most road accidents. With a little common sense and safe driving practices, drivers can reduce their chances of a crash. Responsible driving will protect other drivers on the road as well as a driver’s own passengers.
Drunk driving is the leading cause of fatal crashes. The blood alcohol limit in Illinois is .08. If an accident occurs, however, the state can charge the driver with DUI even if the driver’s blood alcohol content is under .08.
People often think they are all right driving if they have eaten or only had one drink, or if they do not feel drunk. For each drink, a driver should wait at least two hours before getting behind the wheel. A designated driver or a taxi ride could help to prevent an accident. The cost of a taxi is minimal compared to the huge costs of hospital bills, legal work, and funeral expenses resulting from an accident. Drunk driving is illegal nationwide, and penalties are severe.
Cell phones and text messages are now a regular part of life for many people, they are also rapidly becoming two of the most common causes of car accidents. Cell phone use is legal in Illinois for licensed drivers over 19, but a hands-free unit is advisable. A hands-free headset or the speaker feature on a cell phone may help to prevent accidents by allowing the driver to keep both hands on the wheel. Text messaging while driving is illegal in Illinois. If sending or receiving a text message is vital, the driver should pull over.
Tailgating, running of red lights, and failure to signal or yield the right of way are often dangerous and illegal activities. Drivers should avoid competing with other drivers. Drivers should pull over if they feel angry or overwhelmed.
Falling asleep at the wheel
Life moves at a frantic pace nowadays. Many people have sleep deprivation without realizing it. Eye strain can also cause attacks of drowsiness. The glare of the sun on other cars can cause drowsiness, especially if the driver is already tired. People who long hours at computers should use colored filters on their screens. Drivers should also avoid spending too much time under fluorescent lights and wear dark UV protective eyewear while driving. Drivers should get as much sleep as they can. Lastly, some drivers may need to consult with a doctor about scotopic syndrome.
Badly maintained roads can contribute to accidents. Although the Illinois transportation board tries to keep road surfaces in good repair, many roads are less than safe. Chicago often gets heavy rainfall, while ice and snow are common from the start of winter to mid-spring. Even the best roads can become slick and hazardous in poor weather conditions.
Drivers should maintain appropriate speeds and keep their headlights on. In fog or mist, the low setting is likely better. A slight fall of rain can be more hazardous than heavy rainfall. In cold weather, drivers should watch out for “black ice”, which looks deceptively like a simple water puddle. Drivers should know how to handle their vehicles if skids occur.
Failure of the brakes, problems with the steering suspension, and worn tire treads are also common causes of accidents. Drivers should have mechanics look at their cars at least twice a year. If the mechanic recommends a repair or replacement, the driver should have it done promptly. Any time when something about the car feels or sounds strange, the driver should probably take the car to a mechanic as soon as possible.
The National Safety Council recommends that all drivers follow road rules and practice defensive driving. If someone is driving responsibly and an accident does occur, the driver will feel more comfortable about whether he or she was at fault.