Most Common Causes of Car Accidents

Car accidents happen for many reasons. From near-miss fender benders to big multi-car pileups, each crash has a cause. Most times, human error is to blame. Knowing why accidents happen can help you spot dangers and drive safely. If you are in an accident, a car accident attorney can guide you. They help protect your rights and get you the compensation you need.

1. Distracted Driving

“Hey, did you see that billboard?” Famous last words before a rear-end collision. Distracted driving isn’t just about texting; it can involve any type of distraction that takes your eyes off the road. Every year, more than 3,500 people are killed in accidents caused by distracted drivers.

Do your part to avoid dangerous distractions by setting your phone to “do not disturb” while driving or keeping it out of reach.

2. Speeding

Sometimes we speed without realizing it. Some drivers speed because they’re trying to reach their destination faster, while driving aggressively, for the thrill, or simply because they believe they can handle it.

The truth is speeding is one of the riskiest driving behaviors. To avoid driving too fast, it may help to dispel some common falsehoods and put the truth of speeding into context:

  • Speeding doesn’t save you much time. The higher the speed limit, the less time you save by speeding too. If you’re traveling 15 miles in a 65 mph zone, going 75 mph instead only saves you two minutes.
  • Speeding reduces your reaction time and increases your stopping distance. It takes an average of three-quarters of a second to recognize a danger and realize you need to stop. There’s another 2.5-second delay in applying the brakes. Depending on how fast you’re going, it can take about 300 feet to actually stop.
  • Driving too fast increases the risk of serious injury or death. For every 10 mph you increase your speed, your risk of dying in an accident doubles.
  • Excessive speed reduces the ability of safety structures to save you. Guardrails, for instance, are tested with vehicles traveling about 62 mph. If you hit one while driving faster, it may not perform like it should. It can actually become a danger. This is also true for your vehicle’s safety features like seatbelts and the car’s crumple zone.

About one-third of all fatal car accidents involve speeding. In 2021 alone, almost 43,000 people in the U.S. lost their lives due to speeding.

3. Impaired Driving

Intoxication isn’t just a personal problem. Drunk or otherwise impaired drivers are an on-road epidemic. One-third of fatal accidents involve drunk drivers. In 2020, 22% of male drivers and 16% of female drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their systems. More than 13,000 people are killed every year by drunk drivers, but drug impairment is just as dangerous.

Even one or two alcoholic drinks can impair driving. Alcohol and drugs affect your ability to judge the speed, movement, and distance of other vehicles. Your reaction time, ability to track moving objects, and judgment are all reduced.

4. Weather Conditions

Rain, snow, ice, and fog can all cause car accidents by making the road more hazardous and impairing vision. Rain is the most dangerous weather and causes more car accidents than snow or ice. About 5,700 people are killed in rain-related accidents each year.

Rain can be dangerous because it reduces your vision while also making the road slick. Rain can cause hydroplaning, or a loss of traction when water prevents the tires from contacting and gripping the road. Hydroplaning can happen in as little as 1/12” of water on the road. When the road has been dry for too long, oil builds up which becomes incredibly slick when it does get wet.

5. Running Red Lights And Stop Signs

Ignoring traffic signals and stop signs is not only illegal, but it also often has deadly consequences. Drivers who run red lights or fail to stop at stop signs endanger not only themselves but also other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers. The decision to run a red light or stop sign often stems from impatience or distraction.

Every year, 90,000 people are injured and 1,000 people lose their lives in red light accidents.

6. Inexperienced Drivers

Inexperienced drivers often lack the critical decision-making skills and judgment that come with time and practice on the road. This can lead to misjudging distances, failure to recognize hazards early enough, and overconfidence in their own driving abilities.

Inexperience becomes particularly dangerous when combined with the impulsiveness commonly found in younger drivers. Teen drivers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as speeding, distracted driving, or not wearing seat belts. Statistically, teen drivers have the highest crash rates of any age group and the highest rate of involvement in fatal accidents.

Education, supervised driving hours, and graduated licensing can help mitigate these risks. It’s still important to exercise patience and caution when sharing the road with those who are still learning.

The road to prevention starts with knowledge. Understanding these common causes of car accidents is half the battle. The other half is applying this understanding to your own driving habits. You can never control the behavior of other drivers on the road, but practicing defensive driving and avoiding risky behaviors makes you and those around you safer.

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