According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), from 2014 to 2016 an average of 18,779 fatalities resulted from road departures; this is 53 percent of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that a run-off-road collision (ROR) account for 70 percent of all fatal single-vehicle crashes; the other 30 percent comes from crashes where the car stays on the road.
According to the FHWA, there are three objectives that can be focused on in order to reduce the number and severity of a run-off-road collision:
1. Keep vehicles in their lanes and on the roadway.
2. Reduce probability of very harmful crashes when vehicles do leave the road or cross into opposing traffic lanes.
3. Reduce the severity of a roadway departure crash should one occur.
One of the approaches for reducing severe run-off-road collisions is called the Comprehensive Approach. This tactic focuses on human factors. The following are key considerations to focus on to reduce the likelihood and severity of crashes:
One of the major causes of roadway departure crashes is excessive speed. There are many instances where, had the driver not been speeding, the crash may have been prevented. Steps that can be taken to encourage the elimination of speeding include speed enforcement and traffic calming measures.
Another commonly known cause of vehicle accidents is impaired driving. This means driving under the influence of any substance such as drugs or alcohol. Curves in the road often make this type of driving more difficult. Educating and informing drivers of the consequences of impaired driving, when combined with strategic law enforcement, can reduce impaired driving.
Similar to impaired driving, distracted driving affects one’s ability to safely pay attention to the act of driving. Types of distractions may include drowsiness, talking on the phone, texting, changing the radio, and other passenger interferences. This can be reduced by using rumble strips and flashing beacons at curves as well as targeted law enforcement.
Despite the known benefits of seatbelt usage, the percentage of those who use them – especially within rural areas – remains very low. Education and enforcement can help to increase seatbelt use and ultimately decrease the severity of crashes that may occur.
Another factor to take into account includes the driver’s age. It may be hard to believe, but older drivers exceed teen drivers when it comes to crashes. As we age, our vision gets poorer, our peripheral vision, depth perception, and reflexes tend to suffer, with fatal crash rates increasing at the age of 75 (according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS has also found that these fatal crash rates increase dramatically post-age 80, though this can also be attributed to the body becoming weaker over time.
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