Defensive Driving and the Top 3 Causes of Crashes


By Tomas DeLeon Jr., Risk Mitigation Consultant – Brown & Brown of Florida, Inc.

In 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported an estimated 6,756,000 police-reported traffic crashes, with 2,740,000 people injured and 36,096 people killed. On average, every 15 minutes, one person was killed, and every minute five people were injured in traffic crashes.

In 2021, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reported a total of 699,593 motor vehicle crashes. Of Those, 16,880 resulted in serious injuries and 3,685 fatalities.

Unfortunately, these figures tell us that, on average, there are roughly ten lives lost in traffic fatalities every day in Florida, one life lost around every 2 ½ hours.

These statistics demonstrate that we are never too far from risk when we buckle up, yet most of us never think of the threat once we hit the roadway. Auto accidents can cause loss of life, injury, and increased claims and insurance costs.

Your organization has drivers on the road every day who should be aware of and practice the fundamentals of defensive driving. We will cover the top three causes of motor vehicle accidents and the defensive driving techniques needed to avoid becoming another statistic.

What is Defensive Driving ?

Defensive driving is a driving technique that minimizes risk and helps avoid accidents by predicting hazards on the road. The reality is that most vehicle collisions are preventable if the driver does everything reasonable to prevent them. If we can identify the risk, understand the techniques to avoid them, and act promptly, we utilize defensive driving.

Top 3 Causes of Crashes


The NHTSA reported twenty-six percent of fatal crashes, 12 percent of injury crashes, and 9 percent of property-damage- only crashes in 2019 were speeding-related. Speeding reduces the time the driver must react to certain situations and increases your vehicle’s stopping distance.

Speed limits are the maximum safe speed in ideal conditions. When we consider the weather, traffic, road conditions, and vehicle size, it is the drivers’ responsibility to drive at a safe speed that will allow them to react to changing conditions. 

Things you can do to avoid speeding include:

  • Planning your trip ahead of time, so you don’t rush to your destination
  • Knowing the speed limit
  • Regularly check your speed
  •  Use the cruise control option to set a proper speed 
  • Get into the habit of  driving a bit under the speed limit
  • Reduce speed in work zones, school zones, and when road conditions require adjustment 

Right-of-Way Violation

The right-of-way is a set of rules determining who goes first and who must wait when interacting with other vehicles. Most states’ uniform traffic laws include these rules. However, they don’t specify which driver has the right of way. Instead, it says who must yield the right-of-way. Nevertheless, the overall goal for every driver should be to do everything reasonably possible to avoid a collision.

Most right-of-way violations occur while changing lanes, merging into traffic, or crossing railroads and intersections. The 2021 FLHSMV report showed 6,044 serious injuries and 1,019 fatalities at intersections with a cross-street or railroad crossing.

Some examples of violating the right of way include:

  • Failure to yield 
  • Passing a stop sign 
  • Disregarding a traffic signal
  • Merging errors 

Tips on avoiding collisions at intersections:

  • Maintaining a safe following distance
  • Anticipating other drivers’ actions
  • Not speeding through yellow lights
  • Scanning before crossing the intersection by looking left, right, straight, then back left again 

Distracted Driving

Distractions that take attention away from driving are all around us in today’s world-reducing our ability to respond to changing conditions on the road.

According to NHTSA, there were 3,142 people killed and an estimated 424,000 people injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2019. In 2021, Florida recorded 2,721 severe injuries and 333 deaths.

Categories of Distraction:

  • Visual – taking your eyes off the road
  • Cognitive – thinking about anything other than driving
  • Manual – taking your hands off the steering wheel

Texting is a major cause of distracted driving, which involves all three major categories of distractions. It is illegal in Florida to operate a motor vehicle while texting. Other causes of distractions include eating or drinking, reaching for object, grooming, unsecured pets, daydreaming, etc. 

How to avoid distracted driving:

  • Keep your eyes on the road
  • Pullover to read directions 
  • Keep your phone out of reach and put it on “Do Not Disturb” mode
  • Make all adjustments before driving
  • Don’t reach for items while driving
  • Avoid phone calls, even hands-free
  • Stay focused on the road
  • Keep your emotions in check

You can’t change what you don’t know, so recognizing the problem is half of the solution. Understanding the top three causes of motor vehicle accidents and the techniques to avoid them will help safeguard your organizations’ drivers and support them in avoiding accidents that can cause loss of life, injury, and increased claims and insurance costs. 

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Tomas DeLeon Jr. is the Risk Mitigation Services Consultant at Brown & Brown of Florida, Inc. Mr. Deleon received his B.S. in Management in 2015 from Hodges University. He is a member of the American Society of Safety Professionals and a Defensive Driving Course Instructor with the National Safety Council. Mr. Deleon’s risk mitigation services include focused workplace and property surveys, risk policy and procedure development, safety and health resources, accredited training, employee safety engagement, and risk performance benchmarking. 

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