5 unexpected causes of car crashes
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5 unexpected causes of car crashes

We're all familiar with the dangers that commonly contribute to car accidents: drunk driving, distractions, speeding, fatigue. However, many accidents involve other factors that get overlooked. It's important to be aware of all potential causes of accidents - not just the most common ones.

Watch out for these five lesser-known factors:

1. Wildlife

Roughly 6,000 collisions with wildlife take place across California each year, according to the State Highway Patrol. Most involve deer. However, livestock, foxes, coyotes and even mountain lions can also wreak havoc on vehicles on their occupants.

How can you reduce your risk of a collision? Keep an eye out for wildlife crossings, especially along heavily wooded areas and sharply curved roadways where your visibility may be limited. Use extra caution when driving at dusk and dawn, when these animals are most active. And take care not to overdrive your headlights.

2. Gawking

Whenever an accident clogs up a thoroughfare, "rubbernecking" is bound to occur. Drivers naturally become curious to know what's happened. Distracted by the incident, they can easily lose sight of the road ahead, resulting in serious rear-end collisions.

You can play a role in avoiding further accidents and slowdowns by resisting the temptation to gawk. Instead, keep your attention focused on the traffic around you.

3. Maintenance

Vehicle maintenance is about more than just keeping your car in good shape; it's also about staying safe. Mechanical issues - such as brake failure, tire blowouts and engine problems - make you more vulnerable to accidents. When your car suddenly quits in the middle of 70-mph freeway traffic, your life (and those of others around you) are in danger. Likewise, if you have to pull onto the shoulder to change a tire or wait for a jump, you're at greater risk of getting side-swiped by traffic.

4. Road design

It's something most drivers don't think about, yet it plays a big role in traffic safety. Road design includes intersection layouts, traffic signals, signage, guardrails, crosswalks, curves and countless other aspects of the physical infrastructure we drive on. When any one of these elements falls short, the risk of accidents can skyrocket, even leading to deadly hotspots where collisions are more likely to occur.

Because poor road design is rarely obvious, it often takes a thorough accident investigation to uncover the danger.

5. Road rage

When most people think of road rage, they envision brutal roadside assaults or even gunshots. Yet far milder - and more common - types of road rage can contribute to accidents. If you frequently find yourself getting frustrated in traffic, losing your temper, racing to get around someone or tailgating slow drivers, you may be at greater risk of an accident. Take some deep breaths and remember the big picture: It's simply not worth the risk to let your frustration get out of hand.

On the flip side, if you find yourself the target of aggressive driving behavior, don't take it personally. Allow the other driver to pass as soon as it's safe to do so. Don't engage with them, and don't let their emotions affect your ability to drive safely.

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