What do people say after a crash? ”That car just stopped for no reason!” ”The gravel made me crash!” ”That crazy driver just cut me off!” Now if that’s ever happened to you, I’m not disagreeing with you. And I’m not saying that your crash was your “fault” if a car cuts you off or drives into your lane… But there might be a different and helpful way to think about this… In aviation they always emphasize that an accident is never the result of just one thing, it’s the combination of a number of risk factors that combined to make the perfect storm for your accident.
So the accident didn’t JUST happen because the car slammed on its brakes for no apparent reason. It was (the car slams on brakes) + (you were too close) + (you were distracted) + (road surface was not ideal for braking) = your accident. Or something like that… If you were to take away one or two of these variables…if the car didn’t brake, then you wouldn’t have had an accident. But also, if you weren’t so close, or so distracted, the accident wouldn’t have happened either.
If you look at every accident from this perspective, it can change your attitude about crashes. Yes accidents DO happen…BUT, no accident ever NEEDS to happen. Unless a bridge collapses or a meteor hits you, just about any accident can be avoided. When you’re dirt riding or going to the track and pushing the limits, crashes are part of the course. But on the street, crashes never actually need to happen…
Here’s my logic spelled out: IF crashes were just random occurrences out of your control, THEN there would be no avoiding them, they’re just a part of life. But IF crashes are the result of a number of risk factors combined into an accident’s “perfect storm”, THEN it is 100% possible for you to avoid any particular accident by dealing with the variables in your control. If you were in an accident on the street, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your “fault” – but it does mean that if you made certain choices you could have avoided the accident altogether. So you can figure out what those choices were, and take it as a learning experience…
Is that a new idea to you? Tell me what you think!
In the meantime, here’s a list of some possible risk factors that can combine to form an accident:
- Poor road surface (e.g., potholes)
- Speed (too fast or too slow)
- Too close to another vehicle (less than 2 seconds of distance)
- Traction (oil, gravel, water, dirt, ice)
- Equipment problem
- Steep lean angle
- Being mentally tired or distracted
None of these things are a problem by themselves… You can handle a pothole. But you probably can’t handle a pothole while going too fast two inches behind a car while cornering over gravel after 2 hours sleep…