There are many causes of car accidents. However, some collisions occur more often than others. If you suffered an injury in a car accident, it is important to understand what caused your crash and who is responsible in order to obtain maximum compensation. Each type of car accident is different and requires a different type of investigation.
Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers will investigate your accident closely to determine the true cause of the crash. When uncovering car accident causes, your attorney may also discover multiple parties that share the blame for the accident and your injuries. This is an important step in successfully resolving your case and collecting the compensation you deserve.
Ten Most Common Causes of Car Accidents
So what is the most common cause of collisions? Here are ten of the most common car accident causes we help clients with in every day:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk and drugged driving
- Poor weather
- Reckless driving and road rage
- Disobeying red and yellow lights
- Running stop signs
- Improper turns
- Road hazards
- Driving fatigued
Let's take a deeper look at each of these situations and learn which is the most common cause of traffic crashes.
#1 Distracted Driving
The statistics on distracted driving are alarming, especially because distracted driving is almost completely preventable in the majority of situations. Experts consider distracted driving a significant public health problem in the United States. Distracted driving leads to reduced reaction time, inability to keep a vehicle in its own lane, and catastrophic accidents resulting in serious injury and death. We are all at risk every time a driver looks at a cell phone or takes their attention from the road while behind the wheel.
Sadly, the use of cell phones and GPS technology in vehicles has increased the number of car accidents caused by distracted driving.
Despite the alarming risks of texting, and despite state laws (including in Pennsylvania) making texting and driving illegal, the NHTSA’s crash statistics estimate that at any given time during the day, more than 850,000 drivers in the United States are texting or otherwise using cellphones while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. These drivers run a substantially higher risk of causing an accident than other drivers.
Car accident victims can hold distracted drivers accountable for their careless actions. Pennsylvania law allows auto accident victims to recover compensation from any party who caused an accident that leads to injuries or property damage while acting in a negligent or reckless manner. In many cases, victims can recover significant compensation for their losses, which can include medical expenses, lost income, vehicle damage, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.
#2 Drunk and Drugged Driving
Nearly 40 years ago, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) riveted the nation’s attention to the issue of drunk driving as a killer on America’s roads. In the decades since, the public advocacy of MADD and similar organizations and the passage of impaired driving laws have made a dent in drunk driving and its close cousin, drugged driving, as a public health problem. Nevertheless, impaired driving remains a massive ongoing national problem.
In Pennsylvania, drunk and drugged driving is illegal—yet, about 1,500 crashes involved impaired or drunk drivers in Philadelphia in a single year alone. Importantly, the laws against impaired driving in Pennsylvania extend to operating motor vehicles under the influence of legal, prescription drugs that have side effects similar to drug or alcohol intoxication.
If you suffered an injury in a drunk driving accident, it is important to know that law enforcement is only focused on the criminal aspects of your case. In order to receive payment for your personal losses, you need to hire an experienced Pennsylvania car accident attorney to look out for your interests while you recover.
#3 Poor Weather
Oftentimes, weather-influenced road conditions play a significant role in causing motor vehicle accidents. In fact, it is one of the top causes of car accidents.
When bad weather causes a car accident, you may wonder how you can collect compensation. While you can’t file a lawsuit against Mother Nature, the driver who rear-ends someone in a dense fog, for example, is still responsible for the crash. All drivers have a duty to use extra caution when driving in bad weather to avoid accidents.
Bad weather conditions require caution behind the wheel. A road that’s safe to travel at 60 miles per hour in summer weather may be dangerous at 30 miles per hour in a torrential downpour.
Drivers who operate their vehicles during poor weather conditions as if the roads were dry and clear may bear legal liability for the accidents and injuries they cause. Never assume that just because the weather was terrible when your accident happened that the driver who collided with you cannot be held responsible.
#4 Reckless Driving and Road Rage
Driving or riding in a motor vehicle comes with an inherent risk of accidents and injuries. These risks significantly increase, however, when other drivers on the road act in an irresponsible manner. While some drivers simply make a mistake, others may purposefully decide to drive in a dangerous, aggressive manner. If an intentionally dangerous driver causes an accident, all injured victims have the right to recover for their losses from that driver.
The majority of drivers will grow impatient behind the wheel at some point in their lives. Traffic and slow drivers can be frustrating, especially if you are in a hurry or running late. However, this impatience cannot cause you to drive recklessly or aggressively. Drivers who let their emotions override their judgment when driving can cause serious and fatal accidents. In fact, aggressive driving is one of the most common causes of car accidents. Reckless driving, road rage, and tailgating are some of the most common aggressive driving behaviors.
According to a March 2018 survey of speeding conducted by the NHTSA, the casual acceptance of driving over the speed limit represents a major problem on U.S. roads. Speeding is a contributing factor in a high proportion of severe crashes. In fact, in one recent year, speeding drivers caused 26 percent of all fatal accidents, resulting in the loss of 13,000 lives.
For every 10 miles per hour over 50 miles per hour a car travels, the chances double of its driver and passengers dying in the event of a crash. The NHTSA study makes particular note that while pushing the speed limit increases the severity of crashes on highways, 86 percent of fatal speeding-related accidents were not on interstate highways.
In other words, speeding is not just dangerous on highways; it’s especially dangerous on neighborhood roads, city streets, and other roads—and it’s almost always evidence of negligence.
More on car accidents caused by speeding
#6 Disobeying Red and Yellow Lights
Intersections are some of the most dangerous places on the road. One thing that makes intersections with traffic lights so dangerous is that yellow lights precede red lights. The Association for Psychological Science (APS) reports that yellow lights pose “one of the more dangerous obstacles that people encounter on the road” because they force drivers to make an uncertain decision in a second or less.
Although some states treat yellow lights as the equivalent of a red, Pennsylvania’s driver’s manual is less definitive, advising drivers to “slow down and prepare to stop” but allowing drivers to proceed through an intersection if they determine they cannot safely stop in time. As a result, Pennsylvania drivers see yellow lights and must decide, often in the blink of an eye, “Can I get through this light, or should I slow down and wait?”
APS reports that a survey by the car insurance industry suggests 85 percent of all drivers cannot identify the right answer to that dilemma. Far too often, they think yellow lights mean, “Hurry up.” When they get the decision wrong, accidents can injure innocent people.
#7 Running Stop Signs
Intersections controlled by stop signs instead of traffic lights also pose a danger to drivers on Philadelphia roads. The IIHS reports that “one-third of all intersection crashes in the United States, and more than 40 percent of the fatal ones, occur at intersections controlled by stop signs,” totaling roughly 700,000 crashes at stop signs every year.
You might think that these accidents mostly involve drivers who fail to stop or do a so-called rolling stop. But IIHS found that only 17 percent of drivers involved in these crashes admitted to not having stopped. Most drivers insisted they did stop but that they didn’t see the other car coming. It turns out, in other words, that driver decision-making is the real danger of stop-sign intersections.
Philadelphia drivers aren’t just required to stop at stop signs—they must also judge for themselves when it’s safe to proceed (similar to how drivers must judge whether to slow down or speed up when a traffic light turns yellow). Drivers don’t always make the best decisions, nor do road conditions always make it easy for them to do so.
A driver who misjudges when it’s safe to proceed through an intersection controlled by a stop sign may be negligent, but so might local governments and road agencies that have an obligation to keep stop sign intersections free from visual obstacles that make it difficult for drivers to see oncoming and crossing traffic.
If you were injured in an accident at a stop sign intersection, an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney could help identify who might have been at fault.
#8 Improper Turns
Turns are one of the more common pre-crash events in motor vehicle accidents on U.S. roads. Left turns are typically the most common of those, followed by right turns and then U-turns.
These accidents occur most often at intersections but also when crossing a lane of oncoming traffic, such as turning left into a shopping center parking lot. The risk of improper turn accidents rises when drivers fail to use turn signals or drive in poor weather conditions.
Left-turn accidents can present especially deadly situations, especially when they involve collisions between a turning vehicle and a motorcycle. These T-bone collisions, in which one vehicle collides perpendicular to the other vehicle, exert catastrophic forces on drivers of both vehicles, often resulting in severe injuries and death.
#9 Road Hazards
Drivers rightly expect road surfaces to remain clear of debris, potholes, and other hazards that could cause them to lose control. We also expect other vehicles (such as commercial trucks) to be of appropriate size and weight to travel on a particular road. At the very least, drivers deserve road crews or other drivers to warn them of known hazards or construction sites.
Unfortunately, sometimes responsible parties fail to give adequate warnings and fail to maintain or repair roads to keep them safe for travel. Some common man-made road hazards that should involve warnings include:
- Raised obstructions such as manhole covers
- Crumbling road shoulders
- Road surface changes, such as from paved to dirt or smooth to grooved
- Lack of lane markings or road signs
- Slick surfaces resulting from spills
- Wide or extra-long cargo loads on semi-trucks
- Sharp curves and inclines
- Visual obstructions
Parties responsible for keeping our roads safe and clear must take precautions to prevent hazards from appearing out of nowhere. That can mean cutting overhanging limbs away from roads to reduce the chance of them falling in a storm and ensuring roads have adequate structural support to prevent subsurface conditions from undermining their integrity.
When an accident occurs because of a road hazard, an experienced car accident attorney’s job is to figure out who had responsibility for making sure the hazard did not exist and/or for warning drivers about the hazard so they could take reasonable precautions. Often, those parties include local governments and road departments, private landowners, and the owners of vehicles that caused the damage or hazard in the roadway.
#10 Drowsy Driving
The average adult does not receive the recommended hours of sleep every night. As such, they may be driving fatigued on a daily basis, especially during long morning and evening commutes. Drowsy driving is the cause of many car accidents. When a driver is fatigued, they can fail to see bicyclists or pedestrians on the road. They may run a red light or fail to notice a stop sign. They may even fall asleep at the wheel and drive into oncoming traffic.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving in many ways. Drivers have slowed reaction times, poor coordination, and impaired judgment. In fact, law enforcement officials often stop drivers under suspicion of drunk driving only to realize that they were simply too tired to drive safely.
There is one common thread among all of these causes of car accidents. So, the true answer to "What is the most common cause of collisions?" is driver error. Whether the responsible driver was speeding, decided to get behind the wheel after too many drinks, or tried to answer a call or look for directions on their phone while driving, these judgment errors can lead to life-altering crashes.
Questions About the Cause of Your Car Accident? Call The Levin Firm.
At The Levin Firm, our attorneys have years of experience handling the most common causes of collisions. We are especially skilled at identifying the causes of motor vehicle accidents that have devastated our clients’ lives, and we have the know-how to investigate and litigate the cause of any car accident. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss the factors that contributed to your motor vehicle accident.
Attorney Gabriel Levin is an experienced and compassionate personal injury lawyer who is dedicated to protecting the rights of injured accident victims. To schedule a free consultation with Mr. Levin, please call our office today at (215) 825-5183 or fill out our simple, confidential contact form.