Americans have been in love with their cars for years. The number of vehicles on the road is very high and many auto accidents occur in the U.S. Data from the National Safety Council estimates that about 10 million car accidents occur every year in the U.S. These auto accidents range from parking lot incidences to multi-car pileups. With the holidays approaching and gas prices low, more vehicles will be on the road and more accidents will occur.
Motor vehicles accidents aren’t cheap for the U.S. population. It is estimated that more than 4.5 million people are injured in auto accidents per year with approximately 2 million drivers in car accidents experiencing permanent injuries. These permanent injuries mean life-changing accidents occurred.
Why are we giving so many statistics regarding auto accidents? Our message is simple, you need to be prepared whether you are involved in a parking lot incident or a more serious accident.
5 MUSTS When an Auto Accident Occurs
- Have your insurance information with you. I know it is a pain to update those printed I.D. cards in your vehicle every six months (this is one reason I prefer to write an annual policy), but you need the proper documentation if an auto accident occurs. You can also access your insurance information through an app on your smart phone with your agency or company. Make sure you are familiar with the app, so you can easily access your information. If you don’t have an app, you can also take a picture of your I.D. card and save it in your phone.
- Take pictures immediately BEFORE the vehicles are moved. Obviously, this only applies if you are not seriously injured. I know you are instructed to move vehicles out of the way of oncoming traffic when possible, but it only takes a minute to snap pictures before the automobiles are moved. I’m not advising you to risk your life, but I am saying act like you are taking pictures for Facebook or Instagram! You can snap ten pictures before you think. I can’t tell you how many times people change their story after an accident. If you take pictures, you have evidence of what really happened. Many times clients call to report an auto accident, but they did not take any pictures at the accident scene. Trust me, even if it is a little fender bender, you will be rattled, so you need a plan for an accident. We offer a small accident card to remind you what needs to be done after an accident. Things that seem simple will not be simple at the time of an accident.
- Get the other party’s information. Exchanging information (name, phone number, insurance information) can expedite the claims process. Many officers will keep parties separated and inform each party that the information will be on the police report. Usually those reports are not prepared for at least 48 hours. This simply delays the claims process. If you feel comfortable talking with the other party, get as much information as you can. Taking a picture of their driver’s license and insurance card can speed up the claims process. I recently had a claim where my client collected the other party’s information. She had not heard from the insurance company after two days, so we called because she had the information. She saved several days of waiting because she had the correct information.
- Do not admit guilt. It will be obvious in some auto accidents who is at fault, but do not discuss the accident with the other party. After an accident both insurance companies are allowed to take a statement, but collect your thoughts before you admit fault.
- Know your liability limits BEFORE an accident and make certain your assets are protected. Motor vehicle accidents cost each person in the United States an average of $820 per year and the total for Americans is $230.6 billion per year. Auto accidents that result in death cost the United States $41 billion in medical and lost work costs alone. Remember we said earlier, around 2 million drivers in car accidents experience permanent injuries every year. If you permanently disable a person in a car accident, will your liability limits protect your assets? If someone is permanently disabled, what will their future medical costs be, what will it take for them to live, how long will they live, who will support their family? Can you see how quickly a claim can get into the millions?
If you google auto accidents, you can see the sharks swimming in the attorney advertisements. I googled and found a number of “auto accident calculators.” If someone suffers an injury, they may be entitled to monetary compensation from the person or company whose negligent conduct caused the injury. What if you are THAT person? What happens if you permanently injure someone who is making $50,000 per year, and they cannot work again. With a life expectancy of 30 years, simply replacing their paycheck would be $1,500,000. Do you have that much protection with your auto coverage?
During the first year of owning my agency, I had a client involved in a serious accident that killed his best friend. The friend’s family sued my client for over $1 million, so his auto and umbrella policy were involved. This client did have his assets protected or his family would have lost everything. This was his best friend, but he was still sued and held liable.
Avoiding Auto Accidents
Now that you know what to do if you are in an accident, let’s look at several tips to help you avoid auto accidents.
- Don’t drive impaired. One-third of fatal accidents in this country are attributed to drunken drivers alone. Every day, 29 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This is one death every 50 minutes which totals more than $44 billion annually.
- Avoid driving during the vampire hour. The deadliest three-hour period on American roadways is between midnight and 3 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Alcohol is involved in 66% of these fatal crashes during the vampire hours.
- Don’t drive distracted. If your eyes are off the road, your hand are off the wheel, or your mind is off driving, you are distracted. One out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving which results in nearly 390,000 injuries each year. Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk.
- Don’t speed. Nearly one-third of all fatal auto accidents are attributed to speeding or driving too fast for conditions. Of the 10,111 speeding-related fatal accidents in 2016, over half happened on roads with speed limits under fifty-five miles per hour.
- Wear your seatbelt. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in seven people do not wear a seatbelt while driving. According to a national daytime observational survey of motorists, safety belt use among front seat occupants was 90.1 percent in 2016. Non-belted vehicle occupants are more likely than restrained occupants to be fatally injured in a crash. More than HALF of driving fatalities occur to individuals not wearing seatbelts. Sixty-four percent of crash fatalities in 2016 were passenger vehicle occupants, sixteen percent were pedestrians, thirteen percent were motorcyclists, two percent were bicyclists, and two percent were occupants of large trucks. These statistics show that you should require your passengers to wear their seatbelts because they are the number one fatality group in auto accidents. As we discussed earlier, you can be sued by the family of a passenger, so requiring your passengers to buckle up is a great idea.
If you have never been in an auto accident, don’t discount this information. Consider yourself lucky! If you haven’t been in a car accident, you may be overdue for an accident. According to the car industry, individuals file a claim for a collision about once every 17.9 years. These statistics are for the average driver, not the one who drives fast or distracted.
Think of it this way, if you got your license at sixteen, the odds are quite good that you’ll experience some type of crash by the time you’re thirty-four, at the latest. With these numbers, it makes sense that over the course of your driving lifetime, you should have a total of three to four accidents.
It is surprising that the rate of crash deaths per 100,000 population in 2016 was about half of what it was forty years ago. Sadly though, a concerning statistic is that the overall per capita death rate in 2016 increased five percent from the rate in 2015. We hope this is not trending in the wrong direction.
Automobiles are still very much a priority for American society. Make sure you are properly prepared and properly protected. Safe travels this holiday season.