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Why Do Car Accidents Happen?

Two good things to know when you get in your car: windshields don't give us skin cancer anymore and facial fractures from car crashes appear to be decreasing, most likely due to design improvements in newer vehicles. But none of this helps prevent the biggest cause of accidents: road rage.

Plastic surgeon Brian T. McMullin analyzed records from a national database of individuals (drivers and front seat occupants) with facial fractures following motor vehicle crashes that occurred between 1993 and 2005 and found that the incidence of facial fractures decreased every year. The decline in the probability of injury is associated with newer car models. McMullin says, "As older cars are scrapped and more vehicles with next-generation safety features enter the vehicle fleet, we would expect decreasing injury probabilities and ultimately overall decreased injury incidence for year-to-year trends." In other words, new cars are safer than old ones (but we already knew that). The question is, will we be able to afford to buy a new car anytime soon?

New car models may be safer, but they won't help with one of the major causes of car accidents: road rage. A person's car is an extension of their territory, which is why we resent it when other drivers intrude on what we consider to be our "space." The cities with the worst road rage records: New York, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Detroit. For some reason, men with wide faces tend to be more aggressive. Did more wide-faced folks settle in these places?

One of the reasons that road rage leads to so many accidents is that negative actions can have a bigger impact than positive ones. In LiveScience.com, Robert Roy Britt quotes psychologist Boaz Keysar as saying, "For instance in driving, if you are kind and let someone go in front of you, that driver may be considerate in response. But if you cut someone off, that person may react very aggressively, and this could escalate to road rage. Small slights could escalate to unbelievable, irrational feuds."

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