Car accidents can occur anywhere out on the road. A variety of challenges may contribute to the risk of a dangerous car accident: for example, distracted drivers may have a much more significant risk of serious injury. However, geographic location, and proximity to home, may not factor into many drivers’ calculations.
In many cases, it should. According to the NHTSA, more than half of auto accidents that cause serious injury or death occur within 25 miles of home. Furthermore, around 52 percent of accidents occur within five miles of home.
Why Do Auto Accidents Occur Close to Home?
A high percentage of accidents may occur closer to home because most drivers spend more time on those roads. Americans drive, on average, approximately 29.2 miles per day.
Since they may not, on an average day, travel much outside that 25-mile radius, it makes sense that they would suffer the majority of their accidents within that distance. Furthermore, most drivers take short trips more frequently than long ones: unless you have a long commute, you may not need to spend much time behind the wheel each day.
However, accidents may also occur more frequently in the initial moments of a trip. As much as 43 percent of accidents occur before the driver has spent more than 10 minutes behind the wheel. Additionally, 25 percent of car accidents happen within the first 3 minutes of driving. That increase in accident risk may occur for a variety of reasons.
Overconfidence Regarding Road Familiarity
On familiar roads, drivers may quickly grow incredibly cocky. They may have an increased overall likelihood of speeding or engaging in other risky behaviors since they may feel comfortable on the roads. After all, drivers may feel they cover that road every day. They don’t need to worry about an accident occurring in that stretch, do they? Unfortunately, those risky behaviors may significantly raise the risk of an accident.
When drivers first set out from home, they may prove more distracted. Often, drivers get into the car while still finishing up the last activities on their list from their previous responsibilities. Drivers may try to finish up makeup or check papers quickly while driving.
In addition, many drivers do not take care of the basic behaviors needed to operate the car before pulling out of the driveway. They may need to change the temperature controls, adjust music, and even move the vehicle seat after they have started driving. Those distracting behaviors can raise the risk of an accident.
Other distracting behaviors, including cell phone use, can prove particularly dangerous. Some drivers may decide to finish up a phone conversation even after they get in the car, despite the potential distraction associated with it, or they may choose to look down and finish a text conversation before leaving the neighborhood.
Neighborhoods offer several potential hazards that drivers must avoid. Those hazards may vary by date and time, making them very difficult for some drivers to predict.
For example, some drivers may have difficulty navigating around garbage trucks or delivery trucks in the neighborhood. Kids and pedestrians may also pose a substantial hazard since they may prove harder to see and more difficult to dodge. These increased hazards can pose additional accident danger or may increase the damage caused during an accident.
For example, a driver may prove more likely to jerk the wheel harder to avoid a child or pedestrian than another vehicle. Pets chasing cars or running into the road can also pose substantial dangers.
Fatigued drivers face several potential risks. In some cases, fatigue can prove just as devastating as getting behind the wheel while inebriated. Unfortunately, drivers may face more fatigue while leaving home initially, which they may do first thing in the morning, and when returning home at the end of the day, after a long day at work or play.
High levels of fatigue can cause drivers to suffer from tunnel vision or to haze out and forget to pay attention to the road. Unfortunately, drivers may prove more likely to push through fatigue when they get close to home since they have such a short distance to travel.
Inadequate Safety Precautions
Some drivers may take fewer safety precautions on short trips than on longer ones. For example, many drivers choose not to wear seatbelts when they know they will need to spend a relatively short amount of time on the road. Other drivers may prove more likely to speed when they know it will shorten the time they have to spend out on the road. Drivers who fail to wear seatbelts may have a higher risk of serious injury or death from a collision.
In addition, drivers may prove less likely to take essential safety precautions like turning on all lights, making sure the windshield wipers operate properly, or securing children or other distracting passengers, like pets, when traveling a short distance. Those increased hazards can make it much more difficult to safely cover that distance.
Frequently, drunk drivers may try to get away with traveling a short, familiar distance, despite knowing that inebriation could prevent them from safely making it home. Often, they feel that they know the roads and can manage to get across them safely despite knowing they have consumed too much alcohol. An accident, however, can occur within moments, and drunk drivers may have a harder time avoiding the potential hazards that may appear on residential roads.
Sometimes, drivers do not grow distracted behind the wheel when close to home, but they may simply fail to pay attention to everything that happens around them. Frequently, drivers prove much less likely to pay full attention when they recognize the roads and do not have to think about their route. On autopilot, they may not notice the presence of large vehicles, pedestrians, or children that do not belong in the neighborhood, raising the risk that they will cause a serious accident.
Letting Their Guard Down
In general, people tend to let their guards down more as they get closer to home. On busy streets, whether in the center of town or traveling down major highways, most drivers go on high alert. They may not feel comfortable in their surroundings, and they may exercise as much caution as possible to help reduce the risk of an accident.
As they get closer to home, however, many drivers’ attention decreases. They may relax and feel more comfortable. Not only can that lead many drivers to engage in high-risk behaviors, but it may also simply mean that they have not maintained the high-alert state necessary to avoid a potential accident as they get closer to home.
Avoiding Accidents Close to Home: What Drivers Can Do?
Dealing with an accident close to home can prove particularly frustrating and demoralizing. You want to feel your neighborhood offers respite and safety, not danger. Unfortunately, accidents can occur close to home all too easily.
What must drivers do to reduce those risks?
1. Complete any necessary tasks before starting your vehicle.
It can prove very tempting to finish up various tasks while you start your drive, especially if you find yourself short on time.
However, before pulling out of your driveway, take care of any necessary tasks, including:
- Finishing makeup or grooming tasks
- Setting the GPS
- Starting your music or setting the radio
- Managing the temperature controls
- Finishing up any phone conversations or other communications
When behind the wheel, you should keep your focus on driving to reduce the risk of accidents. Taking care of necessary tasks before you hit the road can help keep your attention on the road.
2. Take the same safety precautions for short trips you would take for longer ones.
You would not set off on a long trip down a busy road without fasting your seatbelt, properly securing your kids, and securing all cargo in your vehicle. Make sure you take those same precautions before getting behind the wheel for even shorter trips that will keep you close to home. Buckle up.
Check your vehicle to ensure it has no mechanical problems that could pose a distraction or create danger on the road. Any safety precautions you can take before you pull out of your driveway can help reduce the risk of a dangerous collision.
Furthermore, do not drive a damaged vehicle even a short distance. Some people will take more chances when they know they do not have to go outside a residential area. For example, you might justify driving a vehicle with bad brakes because you just need to go “down the street.” Unfortunately, an accident can occur even within those few minutes on the road, and you may end up liable for any damages that occur.
3. Keep your attention on the road, even when close to home.
Make a habit of looking for specific landmarks in your neighborhood or of looking for anything unique. Pay particular attention during times of day when you know kids and pedestrians may prove more likely to fill the road. Keeping your attention on those critical details can help decrease the risk that you will inadvertently cause an accident when close to home.
4. Share the road safely with cyclists, pedestrians, and service vehicles in your neighborhood.
From garbage trucks to delivery vehicles, residential neighborhoods can see considerably more traffic than anticipated. Often, you may find yourself frustrated as the mail truck has to stop for every mailbox or a pedestrian takes up more space in the road than you can reasonably get around.
However, to avoid the risk of an accident, always share the road safely in your neighborhood. Do not attempt to pass illegally. If you do need to pass, make sure the driver or pedestrian you pass knows that you plan to move around them. Exercise particular care around kids and pets who may not realize your intent.
5. Slow down.
Many people speed up when they are near home because they feel more confident. However, that higher rate of speed could prove devastating if it ends up causing an accident. Keep your speed down.
In addition, make sure you know the speed limit in your neighborhood. Many people do not know local residential speed limits and simply drive at a speed that feels comfortable to them, based on their current conditions. Unfortunately, sometimes, that may result in drivers who steadily increase their speed as they live in a specific area longer.
Check the speed limit regularly and adhere to it. When in doubt, slow down below the speed limit in the neighborhood. You may need to slow down further in bad weather conditions, around pedestrians, or when dealing with kids playing in or near the street.
6. Avoid driving while fatigued, drunk, or distracted.
You would not consider taking a long trip while exhausted or inebriated. Unfortunately, all too many drivers decide to take the chance on a short trip, only to suffer fatal or permanently damaging consequences. To help keep yourself and others on the road with you safe, avoid driving even short distances while suffering from fatigue or inebriation. Never drive while distracted. If you must engage in a distraction, pull off the road.
After an Accident Close to Home, a Lawyer Can Help
No matter where your accident occurs, you may find yourself fighting against the insurance company after an accident. If you suffered injuries in any accident, including one close to home, a lawyer can help you pursue the compensation you may deserve.
Contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to discuss your right to compensation.