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Traffic and Transportation Division
38250 Sierra Highway
Palmdale, CA 93550

Open Monday-Thursday
7:30 am-6 pm
Closed Friday

Safe Driving Practices

Types and Causes of Incidents

It should be recognized that vehicle collisions are rarely "accidents" that result from luck or chance. Vehicle collisions are more appropriately called incidents, and almost all traffic incidents may be attributed to human errors. Often, more than one error occurs in a traffic incident.

Safe driving practices can result in fewer traffic incidents. By identifying the most frequent types of incidents and their primary contributing driving errors, the potential for collisions may be reduced.

In Palmdale, the most common types of traffic collisions are as follows: broadside (37%); rear end (24%); side swipe (12%);  hitting a fixed object (11%); head on (6%); and others (10%).

The most common driver errors associated with incidents include the following; however, many incidents may have multiple causes.

Failing to yield the right-of-way is a primary factor in 27 percent of incidents in Palmdale. This includes attempting to enter a roadway or intersection without a sufficient gap between other cars. Turning without a sufficient gap in oncoming traffic and running red lights are also common errors. These errors often result in broadside incidents. These may be corrected by patience and carefully observing oncoming traffic.

Unsafe Speed is a primary factor in approximately 18 percent of incidents. This may result in a poor ability to react to conditions and maintain control of the vehicle. Drivers should obey the speed limits and never drive faster than conditions safely allow.

Improper Turning is cited as a primary cause of approximately 16 percent of incidents. Right and left-turn movements should begin and end in the proper lanes. Care should be taken in choosing a sufficient gap in traffic and following traffic signal indications. Broadside incidents often occur from errors in turning. Also, side swipe incidents result from drivers changing lanes too abruptly. Drivers should always carefully look over their shoulders and signal whenever changing lanes.

Failing to obey Stop signs and traffic signals is a primary contributor to approximately 10 percent of traffic incidents. Drivers running red lights frequently cause severe broadside incidents. Drivers should never enter an intersection on a red light, except after stopping where right turns on red are allowed. They may enter on the green light only after other vehicles in the intersection have cleared.

Following to closely is a primary cause of approximately 6 percent of incidents, but is often also related to driving at an unsafe speed. Typically, this results in rear end incidents. Whenever possible, drivers should maintain at least a two second gap (three seconds is preferred) between their vehicle and the vehicle ahead of them.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs may eventually lead to traffic collisions of any type, including hitting fixed objects and head-on collisions.

Safe Driving Practices

The types and causes of incidents identify potential driver errors to avoid. Much of safe driving is concentrating on driving, avoiding distractions, and applying patience and common sense.

  • Simple practices such as scanning the roadway ahead, accelerating smoothly, being prepared to react, and signaling movements will greatly improve safety.
  • A person should never believe that they have become such a good driver that they cannot potentially be involved in an incident as this will lead to carelessness. Also, even good drivers are sharing the roadways with careless or rude drivers.
  • Drivers should carefully obey traffic laws and obey traffic control devices (signs, signals, and markings). Laws and devices are provided to enhance safety and traffic flow. Each type of traffic control device has advantages and disadvantages in certain situations. Therefore, proper use of traffic control devices is important.
  • Drivers should not insist on their driving rights when it may lead to an incident. Even if legally correct, an incident may lead to inconvenience, pain, or even disability or death. This is especially true in pedestrian vs. vehicle incidents, and in vehicle vs. train incidents.
  • Drivers should be physically and emotionally ready to operate a vehicle. The effects of alcohol or drugs are well known. Some prescription medications may also impair driving. Individuals should also avoid driving when worried, preoccupied, angry, frustrated, or otherwise distracted from driving.
  • Vehicles should be kept in good operating condition to avoid mechanical failures which may directly result in an incident or expose the driver and passengers to repairs or seeking help near the roadway.
  • Avoid sudden movements. Such movements are poorly planned and other drivers have little opportunity to react.


In summary, drivers should be well prepared for operating a vehicle before using roadways. This includes the condition of the driver and vehicle. Operating a vehicle safely requires maturity and concentration. Even seemingly minor errors may have serious effects.

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38300 Sierra Highway, Palmdale, CA 93550 · 661/267-5100 · 661/267-5122 - fax

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