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How to prevent a serious car crash

There are approximately six million car crashes every year in the United States. Collisions can be fatal or result in injuries like whiplash, broken ribs, and concussions due to a couple of simple choices, so it’s time to treat them as a public health concern. Public health professor Steve Thygerson imparts advice on five topics that can prevent serious motor vehicle crashes.

Five areas of interest to avoid serious car crashes—life science lifestyle tips

Intersections—More than 50% of car crashes happen in intersections. There are three things to remember when going through an intersection.

  1. First, never accelerate through an intersection as it decreases your ability to drive cautiously and consider other cars.  
  2. Second, do not test your luck with yellow lights. You should only pass through a yellow light if there’s not enough time to stop safely. There is no point in risking it. 
  3. Third, avoid left-hand turns if they aren’t protected. Try changing your route to avoid unprotected left-hand turns in parking lots and big intersections to take away the danger of gauging the right time to turn.  

Trust—You should never count on other drivers to make the right decisions to protect you.

  1. You do not want to be at someone else’s will, so drive defensively. Thygerson suggests always piloting the car in anticipating that someone will pull out in front of you.  
  2. Don’t follow someone too closely. You never know when a driver will unexpectedly slam on their breaks, turn, or hit something. Give yourself space to make adjustments as needed.  

Speed—Car crashes are far more likely when you aren’t obeying the speed limit.

  1. When driving on the freeway, slower traffic keeps to the far right or the second to right lane. Driving in the right lanes is preferred from a safety and stress standpoint.  
  2. Obey the speed limit. Driving is already a fast-thinking skill; there’s no need to make it quicker. Your safety is worth a couple of extra minutes on the road.  

Abruptness—Any abrupt movement or decision can be very detrimental to your safety.

  1. It is extremely hazardous to make abrupt lane changes. Be on high alert when choosing the appropriate time to change lanes and only do so when necessary.  
  2. When you make adjustments while driving, correct yourself calmly and gradually. Over-correcting is the result of abrupt behavior and can lead you into the wrong lane, an animal, pedestrians, or ditches.  

Precautions—Make simple decisions to prevent large consequences.

  1. Wearing a seatbelt won’t prevent a car crash, but it will protect you in the case of a collision. In Utah, 11% of motor vehicle occupants don’t wear seatbelts.  
  2. Rid yourself of distractions. Distracted drivers tend to drive slower, make constant course corrections, and be unaware of their surroundings. Prevent large consequences by committing to rid yourself of distractions.  

Life Science Lifestyle: connecting you to science
The Lifestyle series provides practical tips to enhance the quality of your every-day life through the outstanding scientific expertise and research of the faculty within the eight departments of the College of Life Sciences.