The Dangers of Driving in Chicago
Getting behind the wheel of a car can be one of the riskiest decisions that you make. This is because, each time you do so, your chances of being involved in a collision are over 30%. Car accidents are so common that they have become the fourth leading cause of death in the United States–behind heart disease, cancer, and covid-19. It’s estimated that an average of 46,000 people die in car accidents each year, and approximately 1,000 of these fatal crashes occur in the state of Illinois alone. This fact isn’t necessarily shocking, considering that Chicago has a population of over 2.6 million people. With the heavy traffic caused by so many drivers commuting in and out of the city every day, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more severe crashes that result in fatalities. Of course, dense traffic isn’t necessarily a cause of crashes in and of itself. Many factors have the potential to lead to collisions.
One of the most common causes of car accidents is the negligence of other drivers. This negligence, however, can take many forms. The most obvious form of driver negligence is impaired driving. Impaired driving typically refers to situations where a driver gets behind the wheel when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and are at a point where they can not make rational decisions or react appropriately to things around them because they are too affected by the substances they have used. Drunk driving accounts for nearly 12,000 deaths each year in the United States–this is roughly 33 deaths each day as a result of drunk driving. Driving while under the influence affects a person’s ability to judge the speed, distance, and movement of other vehicles as well as their location relative to the rest of the road. This could cause them to swerve in and out of their lane and end up crossing into oncoming traffic or driving off the road completely. Alcohol also makes people feel more relaxed and drowsy, so drunk driving can sometimes lead to people falling asleep at the wheel and losing control of their vehicles, putting other drivers at risk by forcing them to react quickly.
Negligent driving can also include distracted driving. In comparison to drunk driving, one might think it’s relatively harmless to look away from the road just long enough to read a text, but this isn’t the case. In reality, while distracted driving is less likely to lead to fatality, it is almost six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. One might think that it’s harmless to look away from the road for a few seconds to send a quick text, but those few seconds could have been the reaction time that was needed to prevent an accident from occurring, so it’s best to keep your phone on ‘do not disturb’ while driving.
Another form of negligence that leads to motor vehicle collisions is an utter disregard for traffic safety laws. This could include things like speeding, ignoring right-of-way rules, failing to use proper signals, or even blowing through stop lights and stop signs. All of these laws and practices are put in place specifically to protect the safety of everyone on the road. When you get your driver’s license, you are agreeing to protect other drivers by following these rules. Failing to do so unnecessarily puts you and other drivers at risk.
It’s no secret that Chicago has a reputation for having some of the harshest winters. The low temperatures, heavy winds, and excessive snow can create dangerous conditions for drivers, both limiting their visibility and their ability to maintain traction. Both of these issues can limit a driver’s reaction time and increase their chances of being involved in a crash. In these situations, you must do all you can to prioritize safety. The first step in preventing crashes in harsh winter conditions is to follow all traffic laws–especially speed limits. You must drive slowly if there’s snow or ice on the road since slick conditions can make it much easier for your car to lose traction if you touch your brakes–which could cause you to start sliding or even spinning all over the road. Instead of using your brakes too much, try slowing down and switching your car to a lower gear. Using lower gears can help your vehicle gain more traction if there’s heavy snow on the road and can keep you from slipping around too much. You can also keep from having to abruptly slam your brakes by leaving a greater amount of following distance between yourself and other cars, increasing your reaction time and lowering your risk of spinning out.