Car accidents are terrifying, traumatic events that end in physical and financial distress for victims and their families. Some car accidents result in devasting fatalities and cause grief and anguish for surviving family members. Other accidents result in serious injuries and economic distress. While each state offers redress for injury victims to recover damages through insurance company claims and lawsuits, the best way to minimize the often life-altering impacts of a car accident is to avoid having one. However, the average American experiences 3-4 accidents in a lifetime, ranging from parking lot fender-benders to serious accidents with injuries. Understanding the ten most common causes of car accidents can help motorists to avoid them.
Distracted driving was once a relatively rare cause of car accidents, occurring mainly when a driver adjusted a radio or applied lipstick while driving. Today’s explosion of cell phone usage for communication and entertainment has caused a steady rise in distracted driving accidents, amounting to 3,522 deaths in a recent year.
Texting while driving causes a significant number of car accidents with injuries and fatalities both to the texting driver and others on the road. At 55 mph, in the five seconds it takes to read an average text message, a motorist blindly drives the length of a football field.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol and other mood-altering substances remains a significant cause of traffic accidents in the United States. Nearly 40 people die each day in the U.S. due to impaired drivers, or approximately 1 death every 39 minutes. Drunk driving accidents increased by 14% between 2020 and 2021.
Speed limits serve to retrain drivers to speeds determined safe for the circumstances of each roadway or street. Exceeding this limit makes accidents more likely and increases the chances of serious injuries. In 2021, 12,330 accidents resulted from speeding drivers. Speeding increases stopping distances and multiplies the amount of deadly force in an accident.
Inclement Weather Conditions
Wet roads, black ice, slippery snow, and road debris from high winds are all weather-related factors involved in car accidents. According to the Department of Transportation, 21% of car accidents result from poor weather conditions. Inclement weather impacts tire traction, visibility, and control.
Avoid driving in poor weather conditions if possible, but if you must venture out on the roads, be sure to adjust speed and vigilance for inclement weather.
Aggressive Driving and Road Rage
Weaving, tailgating, cutting off or blocking other drivers, and running through red lights are all examples of aggressive driving. Driving aggressively and exhibiting road rage contributes to about 56% of fatal crashes each year. Aggressive drivers often cause accidents at high speeds, making these crashes among the most deadly.
Accident rates typically increase during the summer months because teen drivers are more likely to be on the road when school isn’t in session. Inexperienced drivers may make unsafe lane changes, fail to follow traffic laws, text while driving, and take unsafe chances on the road resulting in increased chances of an accident.
Following another driver too closely makes it more difficult to avoid a collision should the front vehicle make a sudden stop. Tailgating sometimes ends in rear-ending accidents that cause serious injuries, including whiplash.
Driving while fatigued is dangerous. Nodding off at the wheel can cause deadly accidents with injuries to the drowsy driver and others on the road. Drowsy driving is a significant cause of head-on collisions as the driver inadvertently veers into oncoming traffic. Drowsy driving is common in truck drivers and rideshare drivers as well as swing-shift employees.
Pot Holes and Road Debris
Potholes, cracked pavement, and debris in the road from tree branches, road construction, or blown truck tires cause many accidents on major highways and rural roadways each year. City, county, and state road maintenance agencies are responsible for keeping roadways free of safety hazards, but lack of funding and other issues may leave roadways in some areas in poor condition.
An estimated 36% of car accidents occur in intersections due to drivers who don’t follow the correct right-of-way procedures. Aggressive driving, the presence of pedestrians in crosswalks, and unclear traffic signs and signals all contribute to accidents in intersections.