On Monday morning, February 8, 2021, a man driving westbound on Lower Hartley Bridge Road lost control of his vehicle and overturned several times, according to investigators at the Georgia State Patrol and Crawford County Sheriff’s Office. Coroner Sheldon Mattox pronounced the driver, Russell Steven Wright, dead at the scene. The investigation is still ongoing.
A separate but similar investigation involving a single-vehicle wreck is being led by the Houston County Sheriff’s Office. The driver’s name won’t be released until their next of kin has been notified, but according to Cpt. Ronnie Harlow, the sheriff’s office responded to a call around 9:45 am reporting an accident on US 341S. The investigation is still ongoing and no details of the accident have been released yet, but it seems a woman driving toward Hayneville lost control of her vehicle and died of her injuries.
While the details are still unclear, both accidents seem to have occurred because the drivers lost control of their vehicles.
But how does that happen?
Common causes of single-vehicle accidents
Unsafe driving behaviors are one of the leading causes of single-vehicle fatalities. Speeding or driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or prescription medications poses a hazard to the driver. Many prescriptions warn not to operate vehicles and heavy machinery after taking them, but sometimes these warnings are ignored and can ultimately result in a single-vehicle fatality.
Driving drowsy is another common cause of single-vehicle crashes, particularly ones that happen at night. When drivers don’t get enough rest, they’re more likely to fall asleep at the wheel and run off the road. Drowsiness can also cause delayed reactions, reduce a person’s ability to focus, and impair a driver’s judgment.
In recent years, distracted driving has been seen as a major cause of single-vehicle accidents and fatalities. When a driver is paying more attention to their phone or the conversation in the car, they are more likely to become distracted from the road. Texting while driving has been illegal in Georgia since 2018 because the number of accidents drastically increased due to drivers looking at their phones and not the road.
Poor road conditions and inclement weather are also known to cause single-vehicle accidents. It’s not always the driver’s fault. Potholes, poorly marked roads, lack of signs and signals, heavy rain, sleet, ice, wet leaves, flooding, and fog are all hazardous for even the safest drivers. In these cases, it’s best to talk to a Georgia car accident lawyer to find out if you can be compensated for a single-vehicle accident.
A vehicle malfunction can also result in a single-vehicle crash. For example, if a car loses its steering or brakes, causing a driver to crash into a guardrail or tree, it’s possible a third party such as a manufacturer may be liable for the damages.
How can single-vehicle accidents be prevented?
Seventy-six percent of fatal crashes are caused by unsafe driving behaviors, whether it’s a single vehicle or multiple cars. Despite fewer drivers on the road because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GDOT reported that 2020 was the deadliest year for Georgia drivers since 2018.
The number of fatal accidents rose to an astonishing 1,600 last year. Compared to the 994 fatalities in 2018, that’s a staggering increase—and many of those involved only 1 vehicle.
In order to reduce single-vehicle wrecks, Georgians should practice the following safe driving habits:
- Follow the speed limit
- Drive alert, especially at night and in inclement weather
- Avoid looking at your phone
- Focus on the road
- Slow down at sharp curves
- Keep up with vehicle maintenance
What should you do if you’re involved in a single-vehicle accident?
Always report a car accident to the local authorities, even if only your vehicle was involved. If you’ve been injured, immediately call 911 for medical attention.
If the area is safe and you’re not severely injured, document the scene while waiting for the police to arrive. Take pictures of the vehicle, landscape, road conditions, and signs from multiple angles. This evidence may be helpful if you decide to file an insurance claim.
Contact your insurance company and explain what happened. If there’s damage to your car or it needs to be replaced, your insurance company needs to know in order to help cover the costs of fixing it or totaling your vehicle.
Next, seek medical attention as soon as possible following an accident. Many injuries don’t make themselves known until a few days after the accident. Scheduling a checkup with your doctor is a simple and necessary step to ensuring that you are unharmed.
Lastly, contact a car accident near you if your damages are severe and if your insurance company isn’t willing to pay. Even though the driver is responsible for their own vehicle, sometimes a third party may be liable for the accident due to poor road conditions or a vehicle malfunction.
Navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be confusing and frustrating. At the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, we have over 200 years of combined experience to help you and your loved ones navigate these difficulties together.