We’re spending more time in our cars and not always by choice, according to the most recent Urban Mobility Report prepared by the Texas Transportation Institute. The report claims that the average commuter spent 34 hours delayed in traffic last year. Add up all those commuters and it came to a total of 4.8 billion hours, 3.9 billion gallons of wasted gasoline and cost in lost productivity and fuel of $115 billion. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when we do get moving, we’re racking up more than 6 million car accidents a year, resulting in 40,000 deaths and 3 million injuries. Since insurance companies rely on accident data to some extent to determine rates, everything you can do to avoid costly claims can only help you find more affordable car insurance. One good way is to watch out for driving danger zones – the times, places and conditions that contribute to the bulk of car wrecks each year.
It’s true that most accidents happen right in your own neighborhood, 52% within 5 miles of home according to a Progressive Insurance study. Claims of this type that can adversely impact your car insurance premiums typically include backing out of the driveway and swerving into parked cars to avoid pedestrians, other cars and obstacles in the street.
As your daily commute gets longer, you’re more tempted to engage in risky behavior while stalled or going slowly. Changing the radio, putting in a CD, eating, using your mobile phone, talking to passengers, attending to personal grooming, rubbernecking and even reading distract you from the task of driving and set you up for an accident. One study claimed that 80% of all auto accidents involved a driver looking away from the road ahead. Just 3 seconds of distraction is all it takes to lose your good driver discount next time you shop for car insurance quotes.
Parking lots are another major danger zone. Even at relatively slow speeds, a collision with another car can mean a big claim on your car insurance.
Driving drowsy can be as dangerous as driving drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says sleepy drivers are a big cause of car crashes each year. Males 16 to 29 are most at risk.
What about when you’re driving? Well, the NHTSA also has data showing that August is the most dangerous month to drive and Saturday is the most dangerous day. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claims that the Fourth of July is historically the deadliest holiday, while NHTSA gives that dubious honor to the long Thanksgiving weekend. IIHS cites the evening commute between 5 and 7 p.m. as the hours when the most people die in car accidents, although the highest percentage of traffic deaths against number of cars on the road happen between midnight and 4 a.m. And if you can, don’t drive on the first day after a snowstorm when you’re 14% more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than on subsequent snowy days, according to UC Berkeley School of Public Health research.
It isn’t always practical or possible to avoid driving danger zones, but being aware of the hazards can help you maintain a good driving record and find affordable car insurance quotes.