Summer vacations and accidents go hand in hand. My thirty years of experience representing people who have been injured in accidents has imprinted in my mind ways that most accidents can be avoided. Most injuries and deaths can be avoided if people are aware of the driving behavior that repeatedly maims and kills. On the mild side, I'm talking about tailgating that has resulted in an epidemic of rear end collisions. At its worst, it is drunk driving, steering down the wrong side of a road, and exceeding the speed limit by a large margin.
Speed kills. In the hundred miles from Panama City to Tallahassee or Pensacola, you save only 6 minutes by going 70 instead of 65 mph. And every 5 miles an hour over the speed limit increases the energy of a crash immensely so that even the best designed vehicles cannot absorb the energy of the impact as they crush. The result is that the body takes the brunt of the crash.
Another huge cause of wrecks is running red lights. Seventy five percent of city collisions are caused by people running lights intentionally to save an average of one minute driving time or because they are inattentive. Hitting the gas instead of the brake when a light turns to orange or red is disastrous in too many cases. Failure to wear seat belts remains a deadly mistake. The damage is done when the unbelted person strikes the interior of the vehicle with huge force. It is impossible in a collision of over about 8 mph for a person to brace with his arms to prevent striking interior components like the dashboard and windshield. And a huge percentage of unrestrained occupants are ejected through windows. Often, when people are ejected, their own vehicle rolls over on them.
Inattentive driving kills about five thousand people a year according to NHTSA. While cell phone usage is only one bad idea when on the road (others being adjusting the radio, lighting cigarettes, and text messaging), it's become dangerously prevalent.
At any moment an estimated one million people are on our roads driving and talking on cell phones. Avoid these commonly occurring scenarios, and your summer vacation is likely to be a happy and safe one.