Car Accident Prevention: Staying Safe on California Roads

July 6, 2023 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff | Tips & Information

Car Accident Prevention: Staying Safe on California Roads

It doesn’t matter what type of car accident you’re in—any collision between motor vehicles can cause property damage, injuries, and fatalities. Even if there aren’t any injuries involved, the shock of a car accident can affect you psychologically. Car crashes leave some victims with vehophobia, a fear of driving—or, in a more technical sense, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

At Chain | Cohn | Clark, our team of car accident lawyers specializes in helping people who are harmed by car accidents caused by other drivers. We relieve accident victims of the burden of negotiating fair insurance settlements or pursuing damages in civil lawsuits, making it easier for them to get back on their feet.

But the truth is, no one wants to see anyone injured in a car accident—including us.

Bakersfield, Kern County, California, and the wider world would be far better off if we all learned how to avoid car accidents. That’s why we’ve compiled the safe driving tips presented below.

Driving: Understanding the Risks

We spend so much time in our cars that it’s easy to forget how dangerous they can be. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statistics, the average weight of a passenger vehicle in the United States is 4,329 pounds—more than two tons.

When an object of that size is moving—even at moderate speeds—it can cause damage to persons and property. In fact, if a driver recklessly, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or deliberately injures someone with their car, they can be charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon under California Penal Code 245(a)(1).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it takes a typical driver 1.5 seconds to react to a hazard on the road and begin braking. During those 1.5 seconds, the car continues moving at the same speed. As the chart shows, the faster you’re moving, the longer it takes to stop and the farther you travel while stopping.

SpeedDistance Traveled After Recognizing a Hazard
Before brakingWhile brakingTotal
20 mph44 feet18 feet62 feet
30 mph66 feet40 feet106 feet
40 mph88 feet71 feet159 feet
50 mph110 feet111 feet221 feet
60 mph132 feet160 feet292 feet
80 mph176 feet284 feet460 feet

Speeding vehicles aren’t the only factor making roads dangerous. According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), “It takes the average person 4.6 seconds to read or send a text message.” At 80 mph, a car covers 540 feet in 4.6 seconds—a full tenth of a mile! The CHP adds, “Drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if they text while driving.”

The takeaway is that there are many things that we, as drivers, can fully control. Following basic car accident prevention tips like driving at a reasonable speed and avoiding distractions are simple, effective steps we all can take to make our roads safer.

Top Tips for Preventing Accidents

Staying in control of your vehicle and avoiding potential hazards while driving has everything to do with keeping your full attention focused on driving. So it makes sense that our top four tips for how to prevent car crashes all have to do with making sure you’re alert and have time to react to whatever comes your way:

  1. Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drugs include illegal substances, prescriptions, or even over-the-counter medicines. Anything that impairs your ability to read the road ahead and respond to hazards can cause an accident. In addition, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and makes you liable for criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits.
  2. Avoid any kind of distraction while driving. Texting, eating, changing radio stations, applying makeup, and talking to passengers—these are just a few examples of things that take our attention off the road. The best distracted driving prevention tip is simply not to mix other activities with driving.
  3. If you’re feeling drowsy, get off the road. The NHTSA estimates that 684 people died as a result of drowsy driving in 2021. If you feel sleepy, pull over and take a quick nap or have another driver take over.
  4. Don’t speed. According to the NHTSA, “Hazards that can be avoided at low speeds may be unavoidable at higher speeds.” In 2021, there were more than 12,000 speeding-related car accident fatalities in the United States (NHTSA statistics).

Seat Belts Save Lives

Technically, this isn’t a way to prevent car accidents, but we couldn’t write an entire blog on vehicle safety without mentioning it: Buckle up every time you get in the car. And make sure passengers in your car put their seat belts on, too. They’re not just common sense; seat belts are required by law in California.

The two or three seconds you take to buckle your seat belt might save your life.

Defensive Driving Techniques

When you’re on the road, you can’t control other drivers, the weather, or road conditions, but you can control how you respond to all these things.

Defensive driving is proactively applying safe driving techniques to keep you and your passengers out of harm’s way. Adopting the following defensive driving techniques will go a long way toward preventing accidents:

  • Walk around your vehicle before you begin your trip to ensure your tires are properly inflated and there aren’t any obvious mechanical problems.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Keep two hands on the wheel at all times.
  • Avoid distractions. Set up your GPS before you start driving.
  • Use your signals to communicate turns and lane changes to other drivers. Check over your shoulder—your vehicle’s blind spot—before changing lanes.
  • Don’t assume other drivers see you or are watching out for you.
  • Avoid tunnel vision. Regularly scan the road ahead and your side and rearview mirrors for potential hazards.
  • Drive at an appropriate speed. Driving too fast isn’t always a matter of exceeding the posted speed limit; it’s sometimes necessary to adjust for road and weather conditions.
  • Don’t drive aggressively (e.g., weave in and out of traffic).
  • Try to give yourself ample time to complete your trip without speeding or driving aggressively.
  • Try always to leave yourself space to maneuver if you have to react to a sudden hazard:
    • Maintain an appropriate distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you.
    • Move over and let tailgaters pass you. Otherwise, if you have to brake suddenly, they may rear-end your vehicle.
    • Don’t drive alongside another vehicle on a freeway or multi-lane road for an extended time. Try to avoid driving in other drivers’ blind spots.
  • Use caution at intersections. Slow down when you see a yellow light. When your light changes to green, hesitate for a second to check for drivers running the red light across your path. A study by Chain | Cohn | Clark uncovered the top 10 most dangerous intersections in Bakersfield. We urge you to use extra caution when navigating any of these intersections.
  • Don’t give in to road rage. Nearly everyone occasionally gets upset when driving, but it’s not advisable to get into an altercation. Be glad you’re safe and continue on with your trip. If you inadvertently upset another driver, don’t engage if they respond aggressively—avoid eye contact, and allow them to pass.

This list of defensive driving techniques is not exhaustive. If you’re serious about car accident prevention, consider taking a defensive driving course or a hands-on, behind-the-wheel driver training course.

Accident Prevention for Teens

Younger drivers get into more accidents than those who are older. Drivers ages 16–20 are far more likely than older drivers to be involved in fatal accidents.

NHTSA StatisticsFatal Accidents Per 100,000 Drivers
Ages 16–2038.5
Ages 21+22.4

However, if you’re the parent of a teen driver, you can significantly lessen your teen’s car accident risk by setting boundaries and actively monitoring their driving habits.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, “Teens who say their parents set rules and pay attention to their activities in a helpful, supportive way are half as likely to crash.”

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers an online guide for preparing teenagers to drive, including a list of topics to discuss with your teen before they get their license. The DMV also provides a contract that you and your teen can fill out and sign so that their responsibilities are clearly delineated.

Don’t Forget to Maintain Your Vehicle

An article on how to prevent car accidents wouldn’t be complete without mentioning your vehicle.

First, not all vehicles are equally safe. More recent vehicle models include many safety features (e.g., lane warnings, collision warnings) that aren’t included in older cars. Both the NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provide vehicle safety ratings that are searchable by make and model.

Next, maintain your vehicle. Most vehicle owner’s manuals include a maintenance schedule you can follow to ensure your car is mechanically sound.

Third, follow up on any manufacturer safety recalls for your vehicle. On the NHTSA website, you can search for safety recalls for your car by entering its unique vehicle identification number (VIN).

Experienced Bakersfield Car Accident Lawyers

The car accident prevention tips in this blog won’t prevent every crash, but we hope they’ll help keep you and your loved ones safe. If you are injured in a car accident caused by another driver, our experienced Bakersfield car accident lawyers can help you obtain fair compensation for your medical expenses and the suffering you’ve endured.

If you need more information on car accidents in California, check out the Chain | Cohn | Clark blog.

For a free, no-obligation consultation on your car accident case, contact us today.