As a major state thoroughfare, Interstate 70 carries a lot of traffic and sees a lot of crashes each year in Indiana. I-70 runs from one side of the state to the other through 156 miles of farmland and cityscape. It intersects with I-465, I-65, and I-74 in Indianapolis, making it a popular highway for both daily commuting and long-distance trips. I-70 passes through Clay County, Vigo County, Putnam County, Morgan County, Hendricks County, Marion County, Hancock County, Henry County, and Wayne County, as well as the towns and cities of Richmond, Greenfield, Indianapolis, Plainfield, Cloverdale, and Terre Haute.
While I-70 makes it easier for many to travel and go to work, it can also be deadly. Interstate construction projects, tractor-trailers, reckless drivers, fatigued drivers, distracted drivers, and drunk drivers all make this major Indiana artery a danger to even the most careful drivers. Many of the 821 traffic deaths in Indiana in 2015 occurred somewhere along 1-70 as our Indianapolis car accident attorney explains. I-70 and other major highways are dangerous mostly because of the drivers on them.
Critical Causes of Crashes Attributed to Drivers
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the critical reason for a crash was assigned to the driver in 94 percent of all motor vehicle crashes nationwide in 2014. These reasons were broken down into four main categories, accounting for various driver behaviors and instances of inaction: recognition error, decision error, performance error, and non-performance error. We explain what these kinds of errors entail below.
Recognition Error in Indianapolis
In a recognition error, the driver fails to see or be aware of impending hazards or threats due to a lack of awareness of his surroundings. This can be caused by the following:
- Driver’s inattention. When a driver is not paying full cognitive attention to the vehicles surrounding him, road and weather conditions, and other potential hazards, he is much more likely to crash.
- Internal distractions. A car’s interior is full of distractions, from children and dogs in the back seat to the radio dial in the front seat. However, the most common and dangerous distraction for drivers is the use of a cell phone—even on a hands-free setting.
- External distraction. Drivers can also be distracted by things outside the vehicle, such as other cars, road signs, scenery, and weather conditions.
- Inadequate surveillance. A driver’s attention should be focused not only on the car in front of him, but on several car lengths ahead. He should also be scanning the roadside for disabled vehicles, construction zones and deer.
These kinds of driver error account for about 41 percent of all crashes attributed to driver error.
When a driver recognizes a dangerous situation but makes the wrong choice in response, he has committed a decision error. These kinds of accidents account for 33 percent of all driver-caused crashes:
- Driving too fast for conditions. A posted speed limit indicates the fastest allowable speed in ideal conditions. In the rain, snow, high winds, fog, or heavy traffic, all drivers need to slow down in order to safely manage the hazardous conditions.
- Taking a curve in the road too fast. Even on the few gradual curves along I-70, a driver needs to slow down before entering the curve and accelerate as they come out of the curve. Taking a curve too fast can result in a rollover accident, especially with high-profile vehicles like SUVs.
- False assumption of other drivers’ actions. Assuming another driver will make the same decision you would be a fatal mistake. Just because you signal a lane change doesn’t mean the driver approaching that lane is going to slow down to let you in. Assuming a vehicle merging onto the highway will yield to you is another mistake. In these situations, you should wait and see what they are going to do rather than assuming.
- Illegal maneuvers. Making an illegal U-turn, driving along the shoulder to reach an exit in a traffic jam, or passing in the slow lane are maneuvers that other drivers will not be expecting because they are illegal. This can lead to a crash.
Safe driving requires rational decision-making on the part of the driver. The predictability of your actions is what will keep other cars out of your path.
Whether due to the inexperience of a young driver, the inability of an older driver, or just carelessness, mishandling of a vehicle can lead to single-car crashes as well as crashes involving many cars. Some driving mistakes commonly made include:
- Overcompensation. Sudden braking or a sharp turn of the wheel to avoid a collision can lead to an overcompensation accident. A car can roll over or skid when the driver does not temper his or her actions to fit the situation.
- Poor directional control. The inability to keep the car in a lane or to maneuver a turn or bend in the road can lead to a crash on the highway. The inability could be caused by fatigue or impairment of the driver, or by lack of experience behind the wheel.
These errors, simply put, are caused by the driver failing to take an action to avoid and accident or keep the car on the road. The most common non-performance error is falling asleep at the wheel.
- Sleep. To be categorized as a pure non-performance error, the driver must have taken no action to control the vehicle. When a driver dozes off behind the wheel, he ceases to control the car, resulting in dangerous and deadly crashes.