A number of factors contribute to the risk of a car accident including; vehicle design, speed of operation, road design, road environment, driver skill and/or impairment and driver behaviour. Worldwide car accidents lead to death and disability as well as financial costs to both society and the individuals involved.
A 1985 study by K. Rumar, using British and American car accident reports as data, found that 57% of car accidents were due solely to driver factors, 27% of car accidents combined roadway and driver factors, 6% of car accidents combined vehicle and driver factors, 3% of car accidents were solely to roadway factors, 3% of car accidents were due to combined roadway, driver, and vehicle factors, 2% of car accidents were due to solely vehicle factors and 1% of car accidents were as a result of combined roadway and vehicle factors.
There are demographic differences in car accident rates. For example, although young people tend to have good reaction times, disproportionately more young male drivers feature in car accidents with researchers observing that many exhibit behaviors and attitudes to risk that can place them in more hazardous situations than other road users. Older drivers with slower reactions might be expected to be involved in more car accidents, but this has not been the case as they tend to drive less and, apparently, more cautiously.
If people have more safety does this then give them the leeway to take more risks?
Another interesting factor is that many places that look dangerous have few or no car accidents. Conversely, a location that does not look dangerous may have a high car accident frequency. This is, in part, because if drivers perceive a location as hazardous, they take more care. Car Accidents may be more likely to happen when hazardous road or traffic conditions are not obvious at a glance, or where the conditions are too complicated for the limited human machine to perceive and react in the time and distance available.
A similar phenomenon has been observed in risk compensation research, where the predicted reductions in car accident rates have not occurred after legislative or technical changes. One study observed that the introduction of improved brakes resulted in more aggressive driving, and another argued that compulsory seat belt laws have not been accompanied by a clearly attributed fall in overall fatalities.
Driver Impairment increasing the risk of car Accidents.
Alcohol: In Canada 33.8% of car accident deaths were associated with alcohol use.
Poor Eyesight: A recent study showed a significant number of drivers were driving without having 20:20 vision highlighting the need for more drivers to have their eyes tested more regularly. It could avert a car accident.
Youth: Insurance statistics demonstrate a notably higher incidence of car accidents and fatalities among teenage and early twenty-aged drivers, with insurance rates reflecting this data. Teens and early twenty-aged drivers have the highest incidence of both car accidents and fatalities among all driving age groups. Females in this age group suffer a somewhat lower car accident and fatality rate than males but still well above the median across all age groups. Also within this group, the highest car accident incidence rate occurs within the first year of licensed driving.
Old age: Even though older driver are more experienced, at a certain old age not only can a person become complacent but lose reactions times and suffer from poor eyesight. For this reason driver retesting for reaction speed and eyesight after a certain age should be compulsory to avoid car accidents
Sleep deprivation & Fatigue: A fatigued driver is as likelya a drunk driving to cause and be involved in a car accident.
Drug use: Like alcohol, being under the influence of drugs whilst driving causes many car accidents. It’s not only illegal drugs but some prescription drugs, over the counter drugs (notably antihistamines, opiates and muscarinic antagonists) that can also impair driving and cause car accidents.
Distraction: Research suggests that the driver’s attention is affected by distracting sounds such as conversations and operating a mobile phone while driving. Recent research conducted by British scientists suggests that music can also have an effect; classical music is considered to be calming, yet too much could relax the driver to a condition of distraction. On the other hand, hard rock may encourage the driver to step on the acceleration pedal, thus creating a potentially dangerous situation on the road.
It’s clear that human beings are the cause of most car accidents. How many more people have to die or be injured before humans start to change their driver behaviour?