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6 common car crash scenarios and what you can do to avoid them

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Roughly 6 million motor vehicle accidents occur every year in the U.S., including more than 40,000 fatalities. We know that driving drunk, getting distracted and driving too fast all contribute to crashes, but what, exactly do at-fault drivers do before a collision occurs?

Big Data is providing some new insights. Today, researchers perform naturalistic driving studies where sensors and cameras are installed in private vehicles so that ordinary driving behaviors can be observed. Dashboard-mounted cameras and other video monitoring contribute to our understanding. Combine those with a landmark 2008 analysis of the specific causes of nearly 7,000 actual crashes and we have more detailed information than ever before.

This data allowed Slate magazine to list out the six statistically most common accident scenarios. Here they are, along with steps you can take to avoid causing them:

6. Rolling stop before a right turn - 6 percent of all pedestrian fatalities

It's all too easy to hit a pedestrian or bicyclist if you're looking left while turning right. Take the additional three seconds and stop completely -- and look carefully -- before turning.

5. Sleep and microsleep at the wheel - 7 percent of crashes

Thirty-seven percent of drivers say they've fallen asleep at the wheel at least once. Microsleeping -- the brain shutting down for a few seconds -- is even more common. Don't drive late or alone if you've had less than 7 hours of sleep.

4. Losing control of the vehicle - 11 percent of crashes

Taking curves at too fast a speed and other aggressive maneuvers, along with failure to slow for water on the road, account for over half of the instances of losing control. Slow down and drive defensively.

3. Proceeding without visual confirmation - 12 percent of crashes

Have you ever cruised through a newly green light without actually confirming the cross-traffic has stopped? Failure to visually confirm the way is clear is a recipe for disaster. Slow down or stop until you can see for sure.

2. Following too closely - 23-30 percent of crashes

Snuggling up to the vehicle in front of you doesn't get you anywhere faster and puts you at risk of a serious high-speed rear-ender. Back off and leav enough space that you could stop without hitting the car you're following.

1. Drifting due to distraction - 33 percent of crashes

What mistake do distractive drivers make that results in crashes? They drift out of their lane or even off the roadway. Don't multitask while driving and keep your eyes on the road.

Finally, if you're injured in an accident that was someone else's fault, have your case evaluated by an experienced personal injury attorney.

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