In less than two seconds, Leigh Waldman’s 2006 Ford Focus came to a screeching halt, decelerating from 45 mph to a complete stop.
Confused and disoriented, Waldman did not know what had happened at first. The sound of her car horn and the smell of smoke filled the air as she realized she was in a car wreck.
“The front of my car was crunched in and I guess it shifted the frame,” she said. “I couldn’t open either of my doors, so I was kind of trapped in my car.”
Waldman was driving through the intersection of Fourth Street and Quaker Avenue when another vehicle ran a red light and crossed her path, causing the crash.
Incidents like this are a common occurrence. In 2014, there were 6,338 auto accidents that led to 28 fatalities in Lubbock, according to Texas Department of Transportation statistics.
The report lists distracted driving, speeding, drowsy driving, red-light running, not wearing a seatbelt and impaired driving as common unsafe behaviors.
Doug Shupe, AAA Texas senior public affairs specialist, stressed the need for people to be cautious and focused when driving.
“We encourage people to not be in a rush, wherever you go,” he said. “If you are heading to class and you’re running late, it’s better to be late and get there safely.”
Shupe said nearly 33,000 Americans died in car crashes in 2014, and preliminary estimates project a nine percent increase in deaths for 2015.
Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said in a statement, “There is a culture of indifference for far too many drivers when it comes to road safety.”
“The vast majority of motorists believe they are more careful than others on the road, though most of them are not making safe decisions while behind the wheel,” he said. “We’re asking every driver to make responsible decisions to make the roads safer for everyone.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found auto accidents had an economic and societal cost of $871 billion in the U.S. in 2010.
The severity of car crashes can vary greatly. Waldman’s accident left her car totaled and her having to complete three months of physical therapy due to neck injuries.
The lasting effects of her accident were not just physical.
“I actually get kind of scared at intersections now,” she said. “Even if my light is green, I still kind of stop and I have to look around and make sure no other cars are coming.”