Please keep in mind that most wrecks are a combination of these factors by both drivers. If you drive in a way that eliminates all these factors, you will have removed yourself from the wreck equation, meaning safer, stress free driving. There are other reasons such as falling asleep, impaired driving (relates to miscalculation), and road rage.
The Top 4
The faster you drive...
1. The harder you'll crash
2. The more it negatively affects your traction
3. The less you'll see
4. The worse your scanning meaning less reaction time when something enters your path of travel
5. The more you will prioritize potential risks based on the size of the object (cars vs bicyclists)
6. The easier it is to mis-calculate turns and curves
7. The harder it is for people to see you
Speed is sometimes related to following distance (space), traction, and impatience.
Space refers to following distance and staggered vehicle positioning. In addition to simply being to close to the vehicle in front of you - the less following distance you have the less scanning you will do which means the less reaction time you will have. Every time you look away from the vehicle in front of you you are decreasing your reaction time. But, since you don't want to drive staring at the vehicle in front of you, and be able to effectively scan - you must increase your following distance to be able to scan effectively while still maintaining a good enough distance to accommodate your reduced reaction time. One of the major maneuvers to avoid a collision with something is to swerve or do a lane change - either way you should try to drive NOT having anybody to your right or left. This is called staggered positioning. We all know it is unsafe to drive in a blindspot (visibility) but many drivers do not understand the risk of driving directly to the right or left of a vehicle. Some instructors call this "an out". We call it an escape route. Many drivers do not want an 18-wheeler next to them but think it's fine to have a smart car next to them - this is minimizing risk based on the size of the object (not smart). Having space will also serve as a safety net if you get distracted or when you simply don't anticipate something happening. [You might observe many drivers purposely having extra following distance in order to text and drive.] At UltraSafe we show videos that support this factor.
This is self-explanatory but you must realize there are other ways of getting distracted that most would consider part of the driving activity. Looking in your mirrors or at your speed too much can distract from your scanning. Adjusting your radio or climate control is not a part of driving and is considered in-attentive driving. Also, very rarely mentioned, having a pet in the vehicle, especially on your lap can be very distracting no matter how much you ignore it.
Motorcyclists are trained in making themselves more visible to others. The same principles should apply to normal driving. If you can't see something, how can you react to it appropriately. Many vehicle swerve off the road simply because they couldn't see the deer. There are 3 easy ways to help people see you better...1. Turn on your full, regular headlights. 2. Adjust your lane position make you more visible around blindspots (signs, bushes, fences, etc.). 3. Drive the speed limit - the faster your drive the harder it is for people to see you.
4 Other Important Ones
Traction is closely related to speed. But sometimes you can adjust your speed and still have traction issues such as when someone pulls out into the road and you slide into them. Traction issues can also be caused by gravel, dirt, muddy, slushy, or water filled roads (hydroplaning).
You have control over your own patience. How patient you are is generally dependent on how much time you have to get to your destination, prior wrecks or close calls, your understanding of your own mortality and how your injury or death affects your loved ones. You have no control over other people impatience. Most people drive in a hurry whether they are actually in a legitimate hurry or not. Knowing this and using good defensive driving techniques will lessen the change of a collision based on impatience.
We've all been there before....
We're getting ready to turn left out of a parking lot. We see a gap. We get distracted. We miss the gap. Now we have to wait longer for another gap. We look in our rear view mirror and see 5 cars waiting for you to go. Now the pressure to pull out is even stronger. You don't want to hold these people up. After all, you been in that position where you are waiting the person in front of you to pull out, there's a gap, and they don't pull out. So you end up pulling out when maybe you shouldn't.
The same can be said for right turns at a stop sign or at a read light. Or perhaps yielding left turns at a light. One of the worst things you can do, when you don't have the right of way, is look in your rear view mirror to see who's waiting behind you. Only do things when they are safe to do, not because people are waiting for you.
This is linked very closely with speed, traction, impatience, and possibly visibility (like fog). It is very easy to have a moment when you start braking too late or you pulled out onto the road when you shouldn't have. Knowing how to calculate following distance and feet per second, understanding reaction time, looking at your traction, leaving early, and assuming the worst can all help you avoid miscalculating.
You actually do have a lot of control in whether you'll get into a wreck or not. At UltraSafe we address all these issues to make you a safer driver.