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The 6 most common traffic crash scenarios, according to data

Traditional statistics on motor vehicle accidents has been useful, but they have been limited. They haven't been able to give us a detailed understanding of what causes the estimated 6 million crashes that occur on American roads every year.

As we've discussed before, the number of fatal traffic accidents rose last year by 5.6 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That was after an 8-percent jump in 2015. Why?

New data is giving some concrete insight into the specific causes of traffic crashes. A recent analysis by Slate magazine included the results of a landmark University of Michigan study; information from naturalistic driving studies where drivers agree to allow their regular driving to be technologically monitored; and even inputs from drivers who regularly record crashes with dashboard-mounted cameras.

That analysis identified the six most common accident scenarios. Here's what to avoid in order to avoid a tragedy:

6. Rolling stops before right turns. Failure to fully stop and look to both the right and left causes 6 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

5. Drowsy driving. Falling asleep at the wheel is a lot easier to do than you might expect. It causes some 7 percent of motor vehicle wrecks and 21 percent of fatal crashes.

4. Losing control of the vehicle. Taking curves at too high a speed and other aggressive maneuvers account for perhaps 5 percent of wrecks. Failing to slow for water on the road is responsible for another 2 percent.

3. Failure to wait and see. Have you ever made a customary turn when a large vehicle was blocking your view? Have you cruised through a new green without waiting to see if the cross traffic actually stopped for their red light? Failure to visually confirm you're clear causes 12 percent of crashes.

2. Following dangerously closely. For some reason, a lot of people seem to feel better when their vehicle is snuggled up close behind the one in front of it. This can lead to the worst kind of rear-end collision -- one at high speed. You can't actually save time by following closely, and this behavior causes between 23 and 30 percent of wrecks.

1. Lane and road departures by distracted drivers. Ever wondered what distracted drivers actually do that causes crashes? This is the No. 1 item. Whether they're using technology, rubbernecking, sight-seeing or just letting their mind wander, distracted drivers wander out of their lanes or off the road at an astounding rate. This behavior causes a third of all motor vehicle accidents.

As you're driving, avoid these errors that can lead to tragedy. Stay awake, pay attention, check twice, take the extra moment and slow down.

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