We at The Law Office of Fredson Statmore Bitterman in New Jersey have seen countless car accidents in our 50+ years as personal injury attorneys, most of which were preventable. If you do unfortunately get injured in a car accident, give us a call and we can help get you the compensation you deserve. However, there are many things you can do to prevent a car accident in the first place — regardless of whether or not you are at fault.
Car Accident Statistics
In the United States, more than 37,000 people die each year due to car accidents, with 3.4 million people becoming injured or disabled. Just think about that for a second: car crashes are one of the leading causes of death in this country. There are a number of policy, infrastructure, and industrial changes that can be made to reduce those numbers, but those types of changes take time and long-term effort. In the short term, your personal driving practices and habits have the greatest potential to reduce your chances of getting in a car accident.
Attitude is Everything
Before we begin looking at tactics and techniques, we will start with a big-picture understanding of what makes for a safe driver.
1. A Willingness to Learn
One of the most endemic problems with drivers on the road today is that most adults think they are already good drivers and have nothing to learn. This is the most dangerous attitude one can have. Driving is a skill that takes time to learn. Even when you are experienced, if you stop paying attention and start running on autopilot, you are putting yourself at risk the moment an unfamiliar or unclear driving situation emerges. Yet many people seem to believe that, once they qualify for their driver’s license, the learning phase is over. However, it is quite the opposite. A driver’s license means you have the bare minimum qualifications to operate a motor vehicle — it does not mean you are prepared for all the exigencies and quick decision-making that is required to be a truly safe driver. If a driver is unwilling to learn new things by honestly reflecting on their own abilities, they will never grow in their skills as a driver.
2. Calm, Controlled, Firm
Have you ever felt pressure to speed up by a tailgater, even though you were already going the speed limit? It’s all too easy to get pressured by other drivers on the road to make bad decisions like speeding. You must learn to drive defensively and courteously — don’t let the impatience or negative attitudes of other drivers impact your own. Stay grounded and firm; you are a stable driver who drives with caution, precision, and skill. If someone cuts you off, you’re the kind of person who just backs off and stays calm.
Oftentimes, there is a waterfall effect of bad driving. This can be observed in rush hour in any major city in the world. Due to the high-traffic, high-stress environment, people who would otherwise be safe, responsible drivers get angry, impatient, and agitated, leading them to make poor driving decisions. Don’t let yourself get absorbed into the collective driving angst around you. Remember: it’s better to be slightly late than to get in a car accident.
Think about just how crazy driving a car really is. You are in a convoluted metal object on wheels with a super-powered combustion engine blasting exponentially faster than a horse can run. What’s more, there are millions of other people doing the exact same thing at the same time as you, and somehow everyone has to share the same roads and follow common rules of the road (explicit and implicit). Even just 150 years ago, this would be a pretty unfathomable situation. Think about how much the automobile has transformed how we build cities. Think about how important a car is today for doing pretty much anything outside the home. A healthy degree of wonder at this situation will help put you in a mindset of heightened alert and appreciation while you drive. A driver who is aware of the peculiarity of driving is an active driver. An active driver, unlike a passive driver, is going to inevitably be more prepared for unexpected situations on the road.
4. Commit Your Attention
It’s easy to be distracted by technology in the car, by thoughts about what happened earlier in the day, or by other people in the car. Consciously deciding that you will commit your attention to driving well will help you correct bad habits and reduce avoidable distractions. A basic level of commitment to paying attention to the road could make all the difference when an unexpected obstacle or dangerous situation inevitably appears.
Before we move on to talk about specific tactics and techniques to help prevent car accidents, we need to talk about your ability to relax while driving. Someone who is in an anxious or stressed-out state may be less patient on the road. Think of the mindset of a cat. Cats are incredibly relaxed at all times and, arguable because of this, they have superb reflexes. The logic is such that, instead of being fixated on this or that threat, they are loose and open to the unexpected. Relaxation can be achieved by leaving for your destination 15 minutes early or through something like mindfulness meditation. However you decide to do it, you should try your best to be relaxed on the road. An agitated driver is an unsafe driver.
We have covered the basic mindset that will help reduce your risk of getting in a car accident. Click here to read Part II and learn about specific tactics and click here to read Part III about the techniques you can use to improve your accident prevention skills now. You don’t want you or your family to get injured in a car accident. If such a thing does unfortunately occur, contact Fredson Statmore Bitterman in New Jersey ASAP. We have more than 50 years of experience as car accident attorneys and we will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve.