Have you ever wondered what mistakes drivers make that lead to the most crashes? It may not surprise you to know that the federal government has tried to determine the types of errors that contribute to crashes. Becoming familiar with these mistakes can help you be a better driver.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the federal agency that aims to reduce “deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes.” To achieve this mission, the NHTSA reviews the causes of accidents and tries to educate people about how to avoid accidents.
The NHTSA is careful to say that it is assigning “critical reasons” for accidents rather than causes. It defines the critical reason to be the “last event in the crash causal chain.” The NHTSA reviewed thousands of accidents and determined that driver error was the critical reason in 94 percent of crashes. The remaining six percent were allocated to vehicle and environmental problems.
In its review, driver error was split into these categories:
- recognition errors;
- decision errors;
- performance errors; and
- non-performance errors.
Of these categories, recognition errors were responsible for 41 percent of driver mistakes. These errors “included driver’s inattention, . . . distractions, and inadequate surveillance.”
Driver decision errors were assigned as the critical reason for a crash in 33 percent of cases. All of these mistakes related to poor decision making, such as the following:
- driving too fast for conditions;
- making incorrect assumptions about what other drivers were going to do;
- incorrectly judging others’ speed or of a gap between vehicles; and
- illegal maneuvers.
The category with the third-highest number of mistakes was performance error. These errors accounted for 11 percent of crashes and included overcompensating and “poor directional control.”
The lowest number of driver errors was the category of “non-performance error.” Only seven percent of accidents fell into this category. The main reason for non-performance error was the driver sleeping.
Nearly three-fourths of driver mistakes fall into the two categories of recognition error and decision error. By improving your skills in this area, you can dramatically reduce the likelihood that you will be in a crash. Here are some simple ways to get started:
- Pay attention to the road rather than to internal or external distractions, such as other passengers and mobile devices.
- Adjust your driving to the conditions around you, including road conditions and other vehicles.
Always remember that it is better to arrive safely than to arrive quickly.