Failure to yield and following improperly among top causes of car accidents

Published 8:45 am Monday, December 21, 2015

While texting or driving impaired may come to mind as the leading causes of car accidents in Elizabethton this year, people may be surprised that the number one cause was actually failure to yield the right of way.
The cause for 123 accidents, failure to yield the right of way claimed 56 percent more wreckage than accidents resulting from inattentive, distracted or impaired drivers combined.
In fact, the vast majority of accidents resulted from careless or negligent driving including: following improperly (83 accidents), reckless negligent driving (76), failure to keep in proper lane (53), careless erratic driving (27), improper backing (21), improper lane change (20), failure to obey traffic controls (16), over correcting (12), improper passing (11), and nominal numbers of speeding, road rage, driving on the wrong side of the road or going the wrong way.
Elizabethton Chief of Police Greg Workman said a number of factors have influenced a slight increase in car crashes this year.
One is the unseasonable warm weather, which leads to more traffic and incidentally a higher number of accidents.
He also said changes to the roads — like the addition of Mary Patton Highway and its traffic signals, as well as the new signal by Sycamore Shoals Hospital — influence the amount of accidents.
The total number for the year was 910 crashes. While none of these resulted in fatality, 156 did cause injury. Amazingly, 156 yielded no property damage.
Workman said a few lessons can be learned from this report.
In failure to yield right of way incidents, he said people may be changing lanes without checking blind spots or turning at an intersection — like a right turn at a red light — when it is not the driver’s turn to go. These mistakes are common and avoidable with a healthy sense of awareness of surroundings and of what other drivers are doing, Workman said.
Wrecks from following improperly may result from being too close in moving traffic or even from stopping without allowing enough space between the vehicle ahead, Workman said, adding chain reaction accidents happen when a car stops too closely and then gets rear-ended into the car ahead.
Awareness and focus are critical for roadway safety, he said.
“Be mindful of your surroundings,” he advised. “We have the Tweetsie Trail now and a lot of pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Be safer by leaving a few minutes early to get to your desired location.”
Distracted driving, though it accounts for only eight of the accidents reported, may be a factor in a number of other accidents as a catalyst for a lack of awareness. Workman said that it is becoming increasingly common, and he recommends using hands free or bluetooth instead of using the cell phone in hands on mode.
“You don’t need to be doing that while operating a motor vehicle,” he said. “It’s one of the most dangerous pieces equipment that we have.”
Drivers are not frequently warned against fatigued driving, but this accounted for three accidents this year, and one additional driver apparently fell asleep. The man was not impaired and was just trying to get home late at night, Workman said. Though less common, he said it is very hazardous.
“I believe it to be just as dangerous as driving impaired — it affects your motor skills just like alcohol or drugs would,” said Workman.
Though driving after drinking and illegal drug use only accounted for 3.6 percent of reported crashes, Workman said 95 people were arrested for driving under the influence. Perhaps active prevention on the part of EPD is to thank for the low number of crashes resulting from DUI.
The wise citizen will recognize that no matter the cause, prevention on the part of everyone can decrease the 6.5 percent chance that each person has of having an accident next year.

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