Rear End Statistics - Three in Ten
In the last four years the annual statistics for rear end accidents--as a percentage of the total number of car accidents nationwide--were all within one percent of one another (1, 2, 3, & 4). According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, roughly 30% of all accidents every year, for the last 15 years, have been rear ends. That is the highest of any single type of accident.
In other words, your odds of getting into a rear end accident are higher than your odds of getting into any other type of car accident.
Why Rear End Accidents are so Prevalent
The majority of the most prevalent type of accident are the result of distracted driving. According to the Pennsylvania Driver's Manual, distracted driving and inattention are responsible for between 25 and 30 percent of all police-reported accidents, which adds up to 1.2 million crashes per year (5).
The manual also states that an undistracted driver will notice, ''an important road event such as another driver making a mistake,'' 97 percent of the time. A distracted driver will miss the same event 13% of the time. A teenager dialing a cell phone will miss the event more than half of the time.
Aside from the usual suspects: cell phones and electronics, unruly children, pets, radio channel surfing, food and drinks and simple daydreaming, studies have shown that the government is even playing a roll in rear end accidents. Red light cameras -- those devices that record drivers running red lights and lead to a citation -- increase the number of rear end accidents by up to 800 percent (6) as people slam on their brakes to avoid being ticketed.
Means of Avoiding a Rear End Accident
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot you can do to prevent yourself from being hit from behind, particularly if you are driving decisively and paying attention. However, there is a very simple formula for preventing yourself from rear ending someone else.
Four Second Rule - If you follow the four second rule and are driving at a reasonable rate of speed, you should have plenty of time to avoid a rear end accident. The four second rule means you should not pass an obstacle on the side of the road within four seconds of the vehicle in front of you. The four second rule is only applicable if you and the driver in front of you are traveling at comparable speeds. If a vehicle is going slower than you, you need to increase the number of seconds.
Both Hands - If you drive with both hands on the wheel, you greatly reduce distractions because most of them require you use your hands.
No Phones - While cell phones are incredibly important, if you need to use one, pull over to the side of the road to talk. Even hands-free head sets are distracting. Concentrate on the road and the drivers in front, to the side and behind you.
Adjust to Conditions - If you are driving in bad weather, slow your speed and concentrate to a higher degree.
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