There’s a reason people say the best driving is defensive driving. Most of us are familiar with the phenomenon that every person thinks they are a good driver—yet the facts speak otherwise. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that about 95% of vehicle accidents are caused by human error. Not every driver on the road is a good driver.
There is no way to control the behaviors of other drivers, but there are practices to help avoid dangers and keep yourself and others safer. Knowing the signs of a dangerous driver can help you steer clear of the potential hazards they pose, and, when necessary, alert local authorities to the presence of a danger on the road. To seek legal advice on car accident law, speak with an attorney who can provide guidance regarding how to handle situations in which a collision was caused by a dangerous driver.
Let’s take a look at eight different types of dangerous drivers and how their risky behaviors can cause serious problems for those who encounter them on the road.
About one person dies every 52 minutes in the U.S. from a drinking-related car accident, according to the NHTSA. Drunk driving continues to be one of the worst and most preventable problems our nation faces, despite continuing pushes to increase driver safety with features like in-vehicle alcohol detectors. A drunk driver is unpredictable, impulsive, distracted, and impaired.
This type of dangerous driver’s ability to see clearly and think clearly is severely compromised. Stay as far as you can from a drunk driver, and pull over and make a call to a local law enforcement agency to report an unsafe driver. Signs such as weaving, crossing medians, sudden braking, driving at night without headlights, and veering off roadways can be indications that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Studies have shown the effects of texting to be nearly as incapacitating to drivers as alcohol. A person with their eyes on the screen will never be as safe as one with their eyes on the road. Cell phone use leads to visual, mental, and manual impairment, meaning the driver’s eyes, mind, and hands aren’t functioning as they should be.
If you are involved in an accident with a texting driver, your lawyer will need to employ some resourceful methods to prove the other driver was using a mobile phone at the time of the accident. “Driver inattention” is the number one cause of accident in Kentucky—nearly 20% of all accidents—and this inattention is most frequently due to mobile device use, even when the at-fault driver does not admit it.
Road Raged Drivers
“Road rage” refers to the violent behaviors associated with the extremes of aggressive driving. These behaviors include verbal abuse, deliberately threatening driving, physical confrontation, and even murder. Thousands of injuries and murders in the United States have been attributed to road rage, making it one of the most overtly dangerous and vicious driving behaviors.
In 2021 alone, multiple gun-involved road rage incidents in Kentucky made the news, including shootings on I-64 and I-71, a case of wanton endangerment in Elizabethtown, and several fatal events in downtown Louisville. Although statistically less frequent than other risky behaviors like texting or drinking and driving, it’s estimated that reported road rage incidents rose 500% over ten years in the United States.
Over the past two decades, speeding has been a factor in about one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities, according to NHTSA research. Speeding is an illegal behavior that puts every driver, passenger, and pedestrian in the vicinity of the speeder at risk. When a car travels over the legal speed limit, the driver is more likely to lose control of the vehicle, car safety mechanisms decrease in efficacy, and the probability of fatality multiplies exponentially.
A recklessly speeding driver is also one of the most common types of dangerous drivers encountered on the road. We can generally assume that the public as a whole is well-aware of the perils of speeding. Yet widely-varying factors such as stressful jobs, busy schedules, heavy traffic, needlessly powerful vehicles, substance abuse, anonymity behind the wheel, and just plain recklessness lead our nation’s drivers to continue to engage in this dangerous habit in ever-increasing numbers.
New Teen Drivers
Although there are more and more tech advancements aimed toward helping new drivers stay safe, it’s best to exercise caution around drivers who don’t have the confidence, experience, or muscle memory to be prudent and reliable on the road. Even a teen driver with the best of intentions can easily become distracted, confused, or panicked when a situation arises that they don’t know how to handle.
In addition to the problem of inexperience, teen drivers have also been shown to be more likely to participate in other activities like cell phone use, driving with multiple people in the vehicle, listening to music or podcasts, and eating and drinking—all of which can increase the likelihood of an accident. In 2019 in Kentucky, there were nearly 20,000 accidents involving drivers 16-19 years of age. By way of comparison, Kentucky experienced fewer than 5,000 alcohol-related accidents in the same year.
The conduct known as “tailgating,” “riding another car’s bumper,” or in more official terminology, “following too closely,” is both annoying and unsafe. Almost 9,000 accidents resulted from a driver following another driver too closely in 2019 in Kentucky. Tailgating is an aggressive action which endangers both involved cars. It often leads to rear-end collisions, airbag deployment, and damage to front and rear bumpers.
We have had clients involved in these types of accidents ask our law firm: Is it illegal to drive without a bumper in Kentucky? While the state of Kentucky does not have bumper requirements, car bumpers are important safety features that can protect both you and the vehicle in the event of a collision, or tailgating. But what should you do if someone is tailgating you? The best reaction is to stay calm, brake slowly, change lanes, allow the car to pass, and pull over safely if the car persists in following you.
Drivers Who Mishandle Their Vehicles
This may be a broad category, but most of use can easily recognize one of these drivers. You may have observed drivers misusing their high beams, failing to use or over-using turn signals, honking the horn unnecessarily, braking erratically, overcompensating when steering, or even driving on flat or under-inflated tires.
An automobile is an extremely powerful piece of machinery that demands the complete attention of the driver. But some drivers lack the skills, focus, or willingness to make sure that they handle the equipment safely, effectively, and in the way for which it was designed. When drivers fail to operate a vehicle as safely as possible, they put those around them at risk of harm.
When you think of dangerous driving behaviors, driving too slowly may not be the first thing to come to mind. But in some cases, slow driving can be just as dangerous as speeding. Under-the-speed-limit driving could be an indication that a driver is distracted by something like a mobile phone, is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is experiencing a vehicle malfunction, or is otherwise compromised in their ability to drive.
Drivers with vision problems and physical or mental health issues are more likely to drive too slowly—as are senior citizens, tourists, inexperienced new drivers, and people trying to follow directions from a GPS, map, or phone. Regardless of the cause, slow driving is a known cause of accident, especially when a car is travelling well under the posted speed limit on a highway or other high-speed road.
We Want to Help Keep Our Roads Safe
At the Law Office of Todd W. Burris, we believe road safety should be a top priority for every person In Kentucky. Our state has some of the most beautiful roadways in the nation, and most of our friends, family, and neighbors strive to do their part to keep them clean and safe for everyone. Yet, like most of the country, we experience far too many preventable injuries and deaths due to dangerous driving.
We want to make our roads safer for all of us. Leveraging knowledge and experience in car accident law, we can work to hold negligent drivers accountable and prevent future accidents. If you have been injured because of another driver’s negligence, contact our office for a free discussion of your case.