Cars are killing machines

Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Cars don’t kill people — people kill people. Sound familiar.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (collected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia), 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads in 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 million people are injured each year from motor vehicle crashes.

Causes of Vehicle-Related Accidents and Deaths

Vehicle-related accidents and deaths include distraction-related deaths, drowsy-driving deaths, drunk-driving death, speeding-related deaths, unbelted deaths, motorcyclist deaths, pedestrian deaths and bicyclist deaths. Not using seat belts, car seats and booster seats contributed to more than 9,500 crash deaths. Tire blowouts can also occur.

Reckless driving includes running stop signs and red lights, tailgating, unsafe lane changes, wrong-way driving, improper turns, street racing and road rage. And police car chases.

Driving at night nearly doubles the risk of a car accident occurring. Has a deer jumped out in front of your car? Have you swerved to avoid hitting a dog, skunk or other animal? And what about the dangers of potholes and road construction areas?

Automobiles have hundreds of parts, and some defective parts can cause serious car accidents. Manufacturer malfunction does happen as well.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID)

Every day, around 29 people in the United States die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes. In 2016, there were 10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drivers with BACs of .08 g/dL or higher.

A 2016 review of nine studies, published in the journal Addiction, estimated that cannabis (marijuana) increased the risk of a vehicle crash by 10 to 61 percent.

What about driving under the influence of prescription drugs? Or non-prescribed opiates, sedatives or hallucinogens?

Distracted Driving

In 2016, there were 3,450 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, including 562 non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists and others) killed in distraction-affected crashes.

The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving.

Weather-Related Crashes

According to the Federal Highway Administration, weather causes more than 1.3 million crashes in the U.S. each year: fog, rain, sleet, snow and ice can reduce visibility, traction, speed control and brake performance. And there’s high wind, too.

Medical Conditions

Seizures, strokes, heart attacks, poor vision and falling asleep while driving can cause serious accidents. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes chronic daytime drowsiness and falling asleep at any time without warning.

Human Error

Many car accidents happen due to human error because the human brain is complex. And under stress, distress, drugs and other factors — accidents occur.

In regard to my car, during one tune-up, the mechanic who did not tighten the lug nuts enough, and another time, the brake pads were put on backwards. How many accidents are related to mechanic error?

Many variables factor into accidents on the road. That’s why we have Highway State Patrols, police officers, emergency medical responders, ambulances, hospital emergency rooms and insurance companies.

Determining causes of accidents is the responsibility of police and the insurance company claims adjuster. That’s why we have traffic laws and rules of the road.

Stop and Think

Wow! Reading the information in this column may be hazardous to your health by making your head spin. People jump into their vehicles several times per day without considering safety. In the hurry-scurry life that we create, we need to stop and contemplate prevention. While we cannot control the actions of other drivers, we can become more intentional of our own actions.

Hold on — there’s some good news. In 2016, the CDC reported a 31 percent reduction in the motor vehicle death rate per capita over the past 13 years in the USA.

Nonetheless, the invention of the vehicle is one of the greatest and the worst feats of humankind.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. Contact her at

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. Contact her at