It is generally agreed that an accident is a “sudden and unexpected event that results in property damage or bodily injury.” The key word is “unexpected” – with the belief that there was nothing that could have been done to avoid it – it was just an accident. However, safety and fleet organizations are using the term “collision” in place of accident. Collisions are then analyzed as preventable or non-preventable.
Not all collisions are mere accidents or sudden events that cannot be prevented. The National Safety Council estimates over 95% of all crashes are preventable. At first glance, that seems to be unrealistic. However, true analysis of any collision shows that most are, in fact, preventable and can be avoided if you practice defensive driving.
While one driver may be responsible for causing the crash or creating the conditions responsible for the collision, this does not mean the other party could not have avoided it also. For example:
1. When you are stopped at a red light at an intersection while another driver is approaching the intersection to your left. If the light changes and the other driver runs the red light and enters the intersection, and your light turned green so you immediately went into the intersection, the result is a crash in the intersection. Who is at fault? Was the crash preventable? From a legal standpoint, the driver to the left who ran the red light is at fault. However, the collision was preventable on the part of both drivers. As a defensive driver, especially being the first vehicle to enter an intersection when your light turns green, you should check both directions (left, right and left again) making sure the intersection is clear before you enter it.
2. If you are rear-ended by another vehicle. This is usually deemed non-preventable as there is usually little you could have done to avoid it. Yes, you should keep your eyes moving, checking your rear view mirror and tapping your brake to activate the brake lights and warn the approaching driver. But almost the entire responsibility lies with the other driver who rear-ended your vehicle.
Collisions are often the result of two or more drivers failing to drive defensively. Crashes should not be looked at as mere coincidences or uncontrollable events. You, as a defensive driver, can control much of what happens and prevent vehicle collisions. This involves having a positive attitude, avoiding making mistakes yourself, and driving to compensate for the incorrect actions of others. We are never given the right-of-way, rather – state laws define who is to yield and in what order.
The challenge to you is to be a defensive driver and drive so as to prevent collisions in spite of the incorrect actions of others and adverse driving conditions such as light, weather, road, traffic, vehicle condition and your physical and mental state.
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