When you’re on the roadways, you have to be focused and proactively prepared for anything that might come your way, literally and figuratively. Defensive driving is a concept often emphasized to keep people safer on the roadways, and the premise is that you’re thinking ahead to possible scenarios.
When roads were initially built in most parts of the country, there were fewer people in general, therefore, fewer people using them. The vehicles also tended to be slower, and people drove less in general.
Now since so many of us are road warriors, what are some of the biggest roadway hazards to be aware of, and how can we avoid them? Being aware of hazards can help you remain vigilant and can prevent an accident.
Animals remain one of the biggest hazards on the road. For example, there are more than one million dogs killed by cars every year. Dogs make up as much as six percent of animal-related traffic deaths for humans.
Other animals that pose a roadway risk include:
- Deer: Deer are described as the single deadliest mammal in the country. More people are killed because of deer-related traffic accidents every year than by shark attacks or any other animal-related accidents. Deer cause an estimated 77% of roadway deaths that are animal-related every year. Texas has the highest rate of deaths related to deer.
- Moose: Moose are massive animals that can weigh up to 1,500 pounds. They aren’t in every state, but in places where they do live, such as Maine, they can create a serious roadway hazard.
- Horses: Horse accidents aren’t as common as is the case with some other animals, but still, their weight can be destructive.
Finally, wondering livestock that either isn’t fenced in or break out of their fence is a hazard if you’re on the road.
If you encounter an animal and it’s dark, you can try to flash your headlights. If that doesn’t work, you need to try and brake as soon as you can. You should try to exit to the side of the road if the animal doesn’t seem to be moving. If you see animal crossing signs, take them seriously.
People who bike on the roadways have the same rights as you if you’re driving a car, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a hazard. It’s important to always watch for cyclists, and give them plenty of room.
Anywhere from 800 to 1,000 cyclists die on U.S. roadways each year, and around half a million are injured.
If there’s an accident involving a big truck, it can be more dangerous or deadly than an accident with another car.
There are a lot of reasons big trucks pose a risk. For example, an 18-wheeler is going to be the biggest thing that’s on the road. If there is a crash involving a big rig, it can lead to underride or override. That means that if you’re in a car and you crash into a truck, you might slide under it. If a truck crashes into a car, override might happen.
Big trucks also take a lot longer to stop than other vehicles because of how heavy they are.
When you’re driving near big trucks, and it looks like it’s going to move into your lane, don’t try to cut it off. If you cut in front of a truck and then have to hit the brakes quickly for any reason, it can be a very bad situation. You also want to make sure you’re careful when passing a truck, and you should always behave as if the truck driver can’t see you.
Reckless drivers can include distracted drivers who are texting and using their phones behind the wheel, as well as people who are under the influence of substances. Trying to weave in and out of traffic is considered reckless driving, as is speeding. Driving too slow can also be a form of reckless driving.
If you see someone who seems to be driving recklessly, the best thing to do is slow down and let that person pass you. Then stay a safe distance away.
Finally, another roadway hazard to keep an eye out for is any vehicle that’s hauling something like furniture or construction gear that’s not completely secured to the vehicle. If you see a vehicle with something being hauled that could become loose, don’t drive behind it and stay as far away from it as you can.