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Top 10 Causes of Car Accidents and How You Can Prevent Them

Car accidents are, unfortunately, fairly common across the nation, including minor bump-ins, rear-end accidents, intersection accidents, higher speed two-car accidents, and multi-car accidents. The vast majority of car accidents are the result of human error.

Car breaking harshly up-close

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Many people think if they drive safely, they can avoid a car accident altogether, however just because you drive safely does not ensure others will do so. There are as many as six million car accidents in the United States every year. Of course, this includes parking lot accidents as well as serious and fatal accidents. Other facts about car accidents include:


  • About 6 percent of all car accidents result in a fatality, 27 percent result in a non-fatal injury, and 72 percent result in property damage.
  • From the six million car accidents which occur annually, some three million injuries result—from minor injuries to grave injuries and all those which fall somewhere in between.
  • About 90 people die each day in an auto accident—of those, at least nine deaths are the result of a distracted driver.
  • One in seven people do not wear a seat belt while in an automobile, even though wearing a seat belt cuts your risk of serious injury by 50 percent and the risk of death by 45 percent.
  • One out of three people text while driving despite the fact that having an auto accident is 23 times as likely when the driver is texting.
  • Driving while using a cell phone—whether for talking or texting—decreases the amount of brain activity devoted to driving skills by 37 percent.
  • Distraction is a factor in at least 20 percent of car accidents which result in injury.
  • For car accidents resulting in a death, about 40 percent are caused by alcohol, 30 percent by speeding, and 33 percent by reckless driving, with the remainder falling in the “other” category.

You may wonder what the primary causes of car accidents actually are. Below, you will find the top ten causes of automobile collisions.

1. Distracted driving

...becomes a larger and larger threat every year. We are a nation of multi-taskers, and that multi-tasking behavior does not end when we get behind the wheel. In addition to talking on our cell phones and texting, we eat while driving, fiddle with the car controls (including the radio and GPS device), talk to passengers, look to see what’s happening on the side of the road, put on makeup, turn around to see what the children are doing in the back seats or simply have our minds somewhere completely different than on the road in front of us and the drivers around us. Distractions can be dangerous, or even fatal.

Having children in the car is a distraction across the board, although parents who have strict rules for their children while in the car are not nearly as distracted as those who do not. Researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed more than 600 parents to determine what distractions they face with their children in the car. In fact, while there has been considerable attention focused on distracted teenage drivers, the results of this survey indicated parents who drive their 0-12-year-old children are frequently distracted and are more likely to have been in a crash. Nearly 90 percent of the parents surveyed reported engaging in at least one technology-based distraction while driving their child or children within the past month, and most drivers reported engaging in at least four of the ten distractions asked about in the survey.

All ages of drivers engage in distractions, even when they are fully aware of the dangers involved, although older drivers are less likely to use technology devices while driving. Truck drivers are the major offenders for eating while driving, as they do not want to take the time to stop and eat. While truckers might eat and drive more often than others, most of us have done so at one time or another. Distracted driving causes accidents—some of those fatal. It is imperative that drivers understand the serious nature of distracted driving, and decide to concentrate on the task at hand.

2. Impaired Driving

According to the CDC, as many as 28 residents of the United States, die each day as the result of a car accident which involves an alcohol-impaired driver. This is equal to one alcohol-related auto fatality every 51 minutes. Drugs other than alcohol—both illicit and prescription—are involved in approximately 16 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the United States. While marijuana users were found to be about 25 percent more likely to be involved in a car collision than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, although other factors, such as age, could also account for this increased crash risk. Further, because marijuana can be detected in the system for weeks after actual use, it is nearly impossible to say just how much marijuana use contributes to auto accidents.

3. Excess Speed

While every driver has probably exceeded the speed limit at one time or another, perhaps when they were running late, or there was an emergency, some drivers speed more often than not. The NHTSA considers a car accident to be related to speed if the driver is charged with a speeding-related offense, or if a police officer notes in his or her report that the driver was driving too fast for the road conditions, or if exceeding the speed limit contributes to the crash.

Speed was considered a contributing factor in 30 percent of all fatal car accidents in 2012, and young males are the group of drivers most likely to exceed the speed limit. Those who exceed the speed limit also appear less likely to wear a seat belt when they are driving, perhaps because those who engage in one risky behavior are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors. Speeding was also a factor in overa third of all fatal crashes which occurred in a construction zone in 2012

4. Reckless Driving

Those who drive with a “willful or wanton” disregard for the safety of other drivers and passengers on the roadway are driving recklessly. Disregarding the rules of the road, or traffic signs and signals can be considered reckless driving as can the following behaviors:

  • Driving more than 25 miles per hour above the posted speed limit
  • Attempting to elude a police officer
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Racing with another vehicle
  • Passing another vehicle on a two-lane highway when visibility of oncoming traffic is limited
  • Placing others in danger by running red lights or stop signs
  • Intentionally failing to yield to other vehicles or to pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists
  • Driving while intoxicated or impaired
  • Passing a stopped school bus

Reckless driving is a very serious offense, which can even result in time behind bars, and extremely high fines.

5. Inclement Weather

A significant number of car accidents are caused by bad weather—nearly 22 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Weather-related crashes are those which occur in fog, severe crosswinds, blowing snow, blowing sand, blowing debris, slick pavements, slushy pavements, icy pavements, rainy weather, sleet or snow. The U.S. DOT estimates that as many as 6,000 people are killed each year in a weather-related crash. The vast majority of weather-related car accidents happen on wet pavement, during rainfall. A much smaller number of weather-related car accidents happen on sleet or snow, while about 13 percent occur on icy pavement

6. Tailgating

Most all of us have experienced frustration when we find ourselves behind a slow-moving vehicle. Under these circumstances, it can be tempting to follow closer than we should—a practice known as tailgating. Tailgating is a risky driving behavior, and, according to the NHTSA, is responsible for the majority of rear-end collisions,which in turn account for nearly a quarter of all motor vehicle crashes. When a driver tailgates another driver, their ability to stop is significantly impaired. Many drivers are not aware of the fact that the stopping distance for a heavier truck is much longer than that for a lighter passenger vehicle. As an example, a truck takes almost twice as much distance to stop than a passenger vehicle. When we tailgate, our perception—the time we need to see and process a roadway hazard—is diminished, along with our reaction time (the time needed for our body to physically react to our brain’s perceptions).  The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials state that it takes an alert driver two seconds to see a roadway hazard and react to it. If that driver is tailgating another driver, two seconds is simply not enough to avoid an accident.

7. Driving at night

A driver’s depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision can all be compromised after dark, and the glare of an oncoming vehicle can also cause vision problems. When a driver has his or her bright lights on, visibility is limited to about 500 feet (250 feet when the headlights are not on bright) which means there is much less time to react to an unexpected event, particularly when driving at higher speeds. Across the nation, about 49 percent of fatal crashes occur at night, with the fatality rate per mile of travel about three times as high as in the daylight. Among those killed in a car accident at night, about two-thirds were not wearing a seat belt, while during the day, the number of unrestrained fatalities in car accidents are less than half.

8. Teenage drivers

Teenage drivers are inexperienced, not to mention more likely to engage in risky and distracted driving behaviors. In 2015, according to the CDC, 2,333 teenagers in the U.S. between the ages of 16 and 19 were killed in an auto accident, while another 221,313 were treated in an ER for serious injuries. In 2013, this age group represented only about 7 percent of the entire U.S. population, yet accounted for 11 percent of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries. In fact, per mile driven, teenage drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers over the age of 20.  Teenage drivers are more likely than more experienced drivers to underestimate dangerous situations, less likely to recognize hazardous situations, and more likely to make critical errors which can lead to a serious car accident. Teenage drivers are also more likely to exceed the speed limit, and more likely to tailgate. The presence of male teenage passengers in a vehicle with a teen driver increases the likelihood of risky driving behaviors exponentially. The crash risk for teenage drivers is particularly high for newly licensed teens, due to inexperience.

9. Fatigue

Fatigue is a common reason for large commercial truck accidents, and passenger car drivers are also vulnerable to fatigued driving. According to a poll done by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of all adult drivers admit to driving while drowsy at least once over the past year. More than a third of those polled have actually fallen asleep at the wheel, and of those who admitted to falling asleep while driving, 13 percent say they have done so at least once a month. The NHTSA conservatively estimates that at least 100,000 crashes a year are the direct result of driver fatigue, leading to 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries. This figure could be considerably higher, since there is no test to determine level of fatigue, self-reporting is unreliable, and state reporting practices are inconsistent. 

10. Construction Site Accidents

The way a construction zone is set up can be confusing, and this confusion often leads to an accident. Not only do many drivers fail to slow down through a construction site, they may also go the wrong way, leading to a potentially serious accident.

Contact Our Jackson Car Accident Lawyers

If you are involved in an auto accident in the state of Mississippi, it is important that you contact an experienced Mississippi auto accident attorney who can take some of the stress off your shoulders. Your knowledgeable Mississippi personal injury attorney will ensure your rights and your future are properly protected.

At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys believe in fighting aggressively for injured Mississippi car accident victims – to ensure that they receive the money they need to fully recover. We can help you obtain the money you need to fully recover. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at 1-601-948-1600, 1-877-231-1600 or via the button below. 

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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