Five dangerous moves behind the wheel

Roughly 6 million auto accidents occur each year in the United States. Any number of factors can combine to cause those crashes. The dangers literally lurk around every corner.

As many drivers know, one wrong move on the road can spell disaster. And that wrong move also can lead to higher auto insurance premiums, since your accident history plays a key role in setting your auto insurance rates.

To avoid being in one of the 6 million or so car wrecks that happen each year, here's a look at five of the most common dangers associated with auto accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

auto insurance accident dangers 1. Danger ahead: Negotiating a curve

Losing control on a curve usually involves speeding or not spotting the "curve" sign beforehand, says Phil Goodman, service delivery manager at 911Drivingschool.com.

Decreasing the danger

Check for a sign that posts the recommended speed and adjust for that speed. Brake before you come into the turn. Brake, coast and then slowly accelerate as you come out of the curve.

2. Danger ahead: Changing lanes

Proper mirror adjustment is paramount for changing lanes correctly, Goodman says. "Most people adjust them improperly, leaving a huge blind spot," he says.

Decreasing the danger

Adjust your left mirror by sitting up in the driver's seat and tilting your head toward your left shoulder. Adjust your left mirror so you see only a sliver of your car. When you lift your head up straight, you should not see any of your car. Repeat with the right mirror.

"When your mirrors are adjusted properly, as a car in your rear-view mirror starts to pass you, you should almost immediately be able to see it in your side-view mirror," Goodman says. Then do a quick shoulder check to the side -- glancing back but not moving your entire body. "Moving completely around takes your attention away from the road for an unsafe period of time," Goodman says.

When changing lanes:

• Look for a gap in the traffic before you signal.

• Signal your intention, check mirrors and give a quick check to the side in which you're turning.

• Start to move over while doing a quick check in your car's blind spot.

3. Danger ahead: Making a left turn

You have more than double the chance of getting into an auto accident turning left as you do turning right, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Decreasing the danger

At an intersection, remember that a green light isn't a guarantee that cars will stop for you. Before accelerating, first check to see that the coast is clear and no cars are trying to run a red light.

4. Danger ahead: Passing or overtaking another vehicle

Gordon says you should ask yourself three questions before overtaking another vehicle.

Decreasing the danger

• Is it legal? Is there a solid line, which means you're not supposed to pass, or a broken line, which allows passing?

• Is it safe? What are the road conditions and what does the oncoming traffic look like?

• Is it necessary? Look ahead to see whether the road opens up shortly. If so, be patient and wait.

5. Danger ahead: Merging

Goodman says this is one of the most difficult roadway maneuvers.

Decreasing the danger

• Before you enter the on ramp, starting looking ahead of you. What does the traffic look like? Is the merge lane a separate lane leading into the main traffic flow (and remains an additional lane) or a true merging lane?

• Once you're on the ramp, match your speed to other motorists on the road -- not too slow or too fast, either of which can cause an accident.

• If you're merging and the lane ends on your right, make sure that no one's sneaking past you. Otherwise, the same rules for lane-changing apply.

Bottom line, according to Goodman: "All these driving maneuvers involve awareness. So stay focused when you're on the road."

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