(978) 691-5453 | (603) 437-2643

What Causes Most Car Accidents?

Car Accidents & Injuries
What Causes Car Accidents?

You’re driving along at full highway speed. Music plays. Thoughts wander from that project at work to weekend plans. Seems like nothing could go wrong. The suddenly, bam.

Car accidents kill 38,000 people in the U.S. each year. Two million injuries result from car accidents annually. Records indicated 34,436 car accidents in 2016, and that’s only the number actually reported.

What are the causes of road accidents? Can car accidents be avoided?

Researchers who pour over crash statistics find 10 top causes of car accidents.

Distracted Driving: Top Cause of Car Accidents

People love their iPhones. Despite laws and police crackdowns, drivers continue to chatter, text and otherwise pay less attention to the road and more to the i-distractions while driving.

Other distractions include eating and drinking while driving, changing the music whether it’s a radio, CD player or other noise box, and good old fashioned talking and arguing while driving. I’ve often wondered if people who fly would want the pilot of the airliner doing any of these things while landing or taking off. Yet they pursue distractions themselves, subjecting themselves, passengers and everyone else on the road to the potential for danger by not devoting 100% of attention to driving conditions.

More on distracted driving here.

Drunk Driving

Despite heavy publicity and campaign drives against drinking and driving, headlines tell us about tragic car accidents and fatalities caused by intoxicated drivers. It’s not just drinking. People high on drugs cause accidents. Valid questions also exist as to whether relaxation of marijuana laws equate to more highway accidents.

More on driving high here.


Police investigators find that speed continues to play a role in many car accidents. In fact many accidents occur not only due to one of the causes we’re talking about here, but as a result of a combination of factors. Speed plays a major role in many accidents. For example if a drunk driver loses control, damages might be reduced if the speed was relatively low. When a driver loses control for any reason, higher speeds tend to cause more serious injuries.

Reckless Driving

Why people drive recklessly remains a mystery. Whether careless people simply fail to think about anyone else or whether they are in a hurry, reckless driving places everyone on the road in danger. Younger drivers, teen drivers who lack experience often drive with abandon not realizing the real danger presented by operating tons of moving metal.

The average new sedan weighs two tons. 18-wheelers can weigh up to 80-thousand pounds in the U.S. Driving isn’t a video game where you get a new one seconds later. Mindless driving and tons of metal make a bad recipe.

Reckless drivers cross the line from mere negligence into gross negligence or even intentionally bad driving.

What is the difference between negligence, gross negligence and willful, wanton conduct?


Most people associate snow and ice with bad driving conditions. Many don’t realize rain can present similar hazards. Especially after a long dry period, oil dripping out of thousands and thousands of vehicles passing over the same stretch of roadway causes a this film buildup.

Then when rain falls, road surfaces become extremely slippery. Accident reconstruction experts refer to this as viscosity. A high viscosity level means the roads are more slippery and stopping distances are further. That means if drivers do not increase following distances on wet road surfaces, chances increase for rear end accidents.

Running Red Lights

Some drivers think it’s funny to push their luck through yellow lights that turn red by the time they enter the intersection. Other don’t think and simply are in a hurry. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know running a red light is illegal. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports red-light running presents the leading cause of urban crashes.

Often, people waiting for the light to turn green fail to check for light runners and simply drive into the intersection. While not technically a traffic violation, failing to look before starting up on a green can result in an accident.

Night Driving

The risk of a fatal crash increases three times at night, according to National Safety Council. Factors behind this nasty fact include fatigued drivers, compromised night vision and impaired drivers. Darkness affects depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision. Add to that the glare of oncoming headlights, with the possibility of temporarily blinding a driver and night driving becomes literally a nightmare.

Optometrists tell us that the ability to see well in low lighting conditions goes down as people age. Statistics tell us that America’s population generally is aging. Put those two facts together. The National Safety Council also reports that people do only one quarter of their driving at night, but half, 50%, of all traffic deaths, happen at night.

Defective Equipment

Bad tires and bad brakes present obvious road hazards. These are only some of the things motor vehicle inspections target. Car inspection month brings an inconvenience. Yet car inspections ideally insure not only that your car is safe but also all the other cars on the road do not present a high risk of causing injury.


Driving too closely to the vehicle in front happens on the highways every day. That doesn’t make it right. Following too closely means that even if the tailgater is attentive to the car in front, he or she would not be able to avoid a crash if the driver in front puts on the brakes suddenly.

A lack of distance between vehicles guarantees that the following car will be unable to stop in time to avoid striking the back of the vehicle in front in case of a sudden or even normal stop.

The tailgating driver who strikes the car in front is always, or almost always, found at fault in a rear end accident. The defense claiming that the vehicle in front “stopped short” means the insurance adjuster will check off the box on her report “failed to keep proper following distance”.

Correct following distance increases with bad weather and bad road conditions.

Wrong-Way Drivers

Between 300 and 400 highway fatalities occur every year in the U.S. as a result of wrong-way drivers. Safety officials explain that wrong way driving stems from distracted driving, drivers under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and other factors including poorly marked roadways and confused drivers.

Reviewing one’s travel route before heading out into unfamiliar territory is a good way to minimize the risk of confusion. It is probably harder to avoid the shock and surprise of someone coming along the wrong way. At the same time I’ve never apologized for looking both ways before crossing a one-way street or for being extremely cautious on exit and entrance ramps.

More on wrong way accidents.

Final Word on What Causes Car Accidents

Cars and other vehicles provide the number one way of getting from place to place in the U.S. Personal vehicles offer freedom not offered by so called mass transportation. After all freedom is what the U.S. is all about, right? At the same time motor vehicle crashes topped the list as leading cause of death of children age 10 and young people between the ages of 16 and 23.

If you’ve done everything right, but the other guy has done one of the above things, or in some other way caused injuries to you in an accident, retain an experienced attorney.  You only get one chance in your case. If you allow the insurance company to kick you around or use tactics to reduce or obstruct your case, you’ll likely wish you had started the claim out on the right track from the beginning. Give us a call for a free initial consultation.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, [NHTSA] Summary of Motor Vehicle Crashes, released October 2017.

2016 NHTSA crash statistics.

One thought on “What Causes Most Car Accidents?”

  1. I have seen a police SUV tailgating a car. I thought that was weird.
    Others speeding on cars and motorcycles, every year! Spring time..it happens!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Nolo law for all logo Avvo CLients choice Personal Injury Avvo Clients Choice Bankruptcy Avvo Top Contributor
Avvo Association for Justice

Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

The information on this web site is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies. This web site must be labeled advertisement in some jurisdictions.