Motor vehicles are both convenient and very dangerous. Crashes are among the leading causes of death and injury in the United States, which is why it makes sense for drivers to want to engage in harm reduction practices.

While it’s impossible to completely eliminate crash risk unless you stay off the road, you can take steps to minimize your potential for getting into a collision with another vehicle. Knowing what causes or happens right before crashes can help you make better decisions about driving.

What were drivers doing immediately prior to their collision?

Analyzing the causes of crashes is a complex process as many factors can contribute to a collision. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration performs large-scale analyses of data to determine crash causation and other factors that contribute to risk on the road.

When looking at drivers’ self-reported behavior prior to a crash, certain trends emerge. In 36% of cases, one or more of the vehicles involved in a crash was in the process of turning or moving through an intersection. Another 22% of crashes involve a vehicle going off the edge of the road. Swerving out of a driving lane causes another 11% of crashes. For 9% of drivers, they lost control of the vehicle right before the crash.

Basically, intersections, turns and moments immediately after you swerve or move out of your lane are often when you have the most risk.

Personal decisions can drastically increase crash risk

When a driver causes a crash, many issues can contribute to their actions. Quite a few crashes involved a driver who failed to pay attention or who was distracted. Speeding played a role in roughly a third of all crashes. Some crashes could involve someone falling asleep at the wheel. Driving while drowsy, under the influence or seriously ill, are also risk factors.

Obviously, you can’t avoid going through an intersection any more than you can knowingly prevent a circumstance in which you temporarily lose control of your vehicle. However, you can avoid making driving mistakes that contribute to crashes.

Avoiding distraction, choosing not to exceed the speed limit, driving only when sober and adjusting your driving practices for road conditions are among the best habits you can cultivate to reduce your risk of a crash.