By guest contributor: Sladen West

The fastest that a human being has ever run is 28 mph (45 kph), and its believed that with proper training, it may one day be possible for certain athletes to make it as high as 40 mph (64 kph), but you know what? Thats nothing compared to the speeds that we can reach in an automobile. When were cruising along the freeway, were traveling at speeds thatsimply putnature just never prepared us for. As such, its no wonder that so many accidents occur on the road. And it does not help that there are countless other dangers out there that could easily bring our time behind the wheel to a screeching halt. Here are seven of the biggest hazards that you might encounter on your way from point A to point B.


1. Drivers going unsafe speeds

speedkillslb11Have you ever been traveling along at the speed limit, only to have another car fly past you as though you were standing still? It can be somewhat unnerving. Speed limits exist to provide an agreed-upon common speed that all drivers on the road can count on, thus allowing the flow of traffic to continue unimpeded. When cars fail to travel at or around this speed, thats when problems can occur; and yes, that goes for slow drivers as well.


2. Animals

serious-road-hazard-tim-gramsAs dangerous as the other human beings on the road can be, at least most of them are aware of the dangers posed by an automobile collision. Animals, on the other hand, are a bit more oblivious. They just go about their business, and sometimes that business takes them directly into traffic. In the United States, there are there are 725,000 to 1.5 million wildlife-vehicle collisions every year, resulting in over 200 human fatalities. And these figures dont account for those accidents that occur when a driver swerves to miss an animal, and then collides with something else.


3. Unsecured loads

It makes sense that someone who is moving a large load would want to get it all done in a single trip. However, when that means traveling with an unsecured load, then its just not worth it. Roadway debris is believed to have attributed to 440 deaths in 2010.


4. Hazardous road surfaces

Pot HolesSometimes the most dangerous thing on the road, is the road itself. Potholes, uneven surfaces, and even faded traffic markings could all end up contributing to an accident. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, approximately 50 percent of the roads in the United States are in need of repair, so be sure to keep an eye out for those potholesbecause even if they dont cause you an accident, they can still damage your car. There are few things worse than getting your vehicle serviced, only to ruin your shocks and alignment on a bad road.


5. Pedestrians

showimage.aspxIn the United States, pedestrians always have the right-of-way over other vehicles. Ok, so there are a few other technical points to the law, but the basic gist is that cars are supposed to yield for those who are on foot. Unfortunately, this sometimes gives pedestrians a false sense of security. The laws of man invariably have to give way to the laws of physics, and when theres no time to stop a speeding car, right-of-way doesntt matter so much. 4,280 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States in 2010, and another 70,000 were injured. When people step directly out into traffic, or cross against a Dont Walksignal, they are putting their own lives and the lives of drivers on the road at risk.


6. Weather

car-stuck-in-snowLets go back to speed limits for a second. Did you know that you could get a speeding ticket even without exceeding that posted speed? This is because the speed limit is meant to represent the highest acceptable speed, during favorable conditions. That means that when the fog appears or the rain starts, youre expected to slow things down. A little water on the road can easily cause your vehicle to hydroplane if youre not careful, and even a little wind can have a negative impact on your ability to control the vehicle, which is why the weather is one of the biggest hazards on the road.


7. Distracted drivers

distracted-driver-4-637x468Theres no doubt about it, distracted drivers are the most dangerous thing you will encounter on the road. In 2012, 3,328 lives were lost in collisions caused by distracted drivers. Distracted driving occurs when a drivers eyes, hands, or mind become preoccupied with something other than driving. So, things like cell phones, the radio, alcohol, and any number of other distractions could all be considered the gravest threat to drivers.


When you slide in behind the wheel, its important to watch out for these various hazards, but its also important to make sure that you dont pose a danger to others, either. Take a defensive driving course and learn more about how to stay safe on the road.