The average car has never been safer and more sophisticated, yet driving remains more lethally dangerous than any other mode of mass transport. The most common causes of fatal road crashes all amount to one thing: human error.
An inexpensive, mass-market car today is likely to boast numerous features designed to flatter the driver’s skills and prevent fatal car accidents: anti-lock braking, traction control, collapsible steering columns, airbags, safety cells, deforming crumple-zones and many more. Indeed, cocooned in steel, leather and surround sound, it’s rather easy for the preoccupied driver to forget that he's responsible for at least a ton of metal which can quickly become a set of fatal car crash photos and another auto-accident claim if control is lost.
Consequently, speed remains the most lethal element in motor fatality accidents. Even for skilled drivers, high speeds equate to reduced reaction times, greater stopping distances and more destructive kinetic energy waiting to be unleashed. Even the strongest construction methods can’t protect occupants from the laws of physics. A common cause of death in ‘head on’ collisions is massive internal bleeding caused by the aorta ripping itself away from the chest wall under instantaneous and massive deceleration.
Drinking and tweeting
Yet speed is rarely a factor in isolation – it is generally accompanied by other aggravating factors. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, renders a driver incapable of adequately controlling a car or judging risk. Even an apparently trivial amount of intoxicants has a similar effect to serious sleep deprivation. While drink driving was once a big factor in car accident deaths, it has now become morally unacceptable in many countries. Police forces worldwide are currently trying to make mobile phone use at the wheel just as odious. Mobile phone use exemplifies the complacency of too many drivers. By giving their full attention and often at least one of their hands to their latest call, text or tweet, many drivers distract themselves from elementary road safety. An appalling number of innocent drivers and pedestrians are being killed for the sake of uninterrupted gossip.
Seatbelts and youth
Another major cause is the non-use of seatbelts. Without a three-point restraint, even a trivial collision can't project an occupant into the steering wheel or windscreen with fatal results. The impact of inexperience on accident figures cannot be overlooked. Young and newly qualified drivers feature disproportionately in fatal accidents, as do their passengers. Even without other aggravating factors, simple lack of experience of decision-making under stress is a great vulnerability. Mechanical faults feature in a tiny proportion of fatal accidents. Most of those who die on our roads do so because of inexperience, idiocy, incompetence and deliberate risk-taking.