When you hop into your car to head out on the road, the possibility of a car accident may be the furthest thing from your mind. But car crashes happen so often that they’re considered a public health concern by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Common car accident causes include drunk driving, running stop signs, and falling asleep at the wheel. In an average year, 38,000 Americans will lose their lives due to a car crash. Even if an accident isn’t fatal, it can cause permanent injury, property damage, and psychological trauma. You’ll inevitably need to shell out money for repairs, medical expenses, and an inflated insurance premium.

These disastrous events are often preventable by practicing responsible driving, being observant, and being considerate of other road users. Here are four of the most common car accident causes, plus simple steps you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

1. Keep Smartphone Usage to a Minimum

Texting (or otherwise using your smartphone) while driving is one of the most common car accident causes. It’s estimated that at any given moment, 660,000 Americans are using their phone while operating a motor vehicle. Opening, viewing, or responding to a notification can take your eyes off the road for as long as five seconds—more than enough time for disaster to strike. It’s extremely important to remain focused while driving, and smartphone usage is one of the biggest distractions.

If you’re using your phone while driving, you’re 20 times more likely to be involved in an accident. Practice safe driving and prevent car crashes by keeping your smartphone usage to an absolute minimum. If you use your phone for GPS navigation, it’s recommended that you get a dashboard mount. Remind yourself that you can check that notification when you get to your destination. Use your phone’s built-in driving settings to silence your notifications. No social media post, text message, or email is worth your life.

2. Ignoring or Disobeying Road Signs Is Dangerous

Road signs provide us with important information to keep us safe. Besides telling us the speed limit, traffic signs give life-saving instructions that should not be ignored or disobeyed. Running a stop sign is one of the most common car accident causes, accounting for about 70% of all crashes. By disobeying “detour,” “wrong way,” or “yield” signs, you’re putting yourself and your passengers at risk.

Drivers and pedestrians alike should pay keen attention to traffic signs and adhere to their instructions. By following the rules of the road, you can do your part to prevent car accidents. Be cautious in intersections and look both ways before proceeding to avoid being struck by a reckless driver.

3. Avoid Driving While Fatigued

We’ve all had to drive ourselves home at the end of a long day, but if you’re tired to the point of feeling sleepy, put down the keys. It may seem far-fetched to fall asleep while doing an activity like driving, but it’s far more common than you think. Fatigued driving is one of the major causes of car accidents in the United States, accounting for 1,240 fatal crashes in 2019. Drowsy driving most commonly happens to people who are sleep-deprived but can also affect those taking certain medications. Those living with narcolepsy are also at an incredibly high risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

To prevent car accidents, ensure you are fully awake and alert before getting behind the wheel. If you’re too tired to drive, just don’t risk it. Get some sleep or try to energize yourself. If possible, ask someone else to drive or seek alternate forms of transportation. If you start to feel sleepy while you’re already on the road, pull over to take a nap or get out of the vehicle and stretch. Splashing cold water on your face and doing jumping jacks can help to shake the sleepy feeling. Try listening to energetic music or calling a friend so you can keep your mind active while driving.

4. DUI Is One of the Most Frequent Car Accident Causes

Driving under the influence (DUI) is so common that it’s estimated that it causes a fatality every 52 minutes. It’s most often carried out by younger people heading home from a night of fun. There’s also a notable uptick in car crashes during holidays like New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day. Besides being a criminal offense, this practice puts you and everyone in your vicinity at risk of injury or death. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause loss of judgment, decreased alertness, and a release of inhibitions.

It goes without saying that driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an extremely bad idea. There are several practical steps that you can take to prevent an accident due to drunk driving. Before you start partying, plot your route home. If you plan to drink, will you have a designated driver? Can you call a cab or a friend to take you home? Even if you aren’t drunk but you observe someone else who is, offer your assistance to arrange a safe ride home for them.

How a Lawyer Can Help

We all have a part to play in reducing car accidents and road fatalities. Be sure to practice responsible driving and to hold others accountable to do the same.

If you’ve been involved in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, a Colorado personal injury attorney can help you recover damages. They will deal with the responsible party’s insurance, negotiate a settlement, and prepare for court so that all you need to worry about is attending your medical appointments and focusing on healing. Reach out today to discuss your case with a free consultation.