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Most Common Causes of Collisions
What to Do When You Get Involved

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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Hundreds of thousands of traffic accidents occur yearly in the US. These range from mild fender benders to severe car accidents. 

Auto collisions can happen because of bad weather and road conditions, driver negligence, faulty auto parts, and similar.

Schmidt & Clark lawyers have been handling car accident cases for two decades. Today, we will go over all the common causes of collisions. 

Summary of the Key Findings

  • There are several common collision causes, all of which can result in property damage, injuries, and fatalities.
  • You should follow several steps when involved in a car accident.
  • After being in a car accident, you should hire an attorney to protect your interests.

Common Collision Causes

Auto accidents happen for various reasons, but some causes are more common than others. Here’s a list of the most common traffic collision causes.

1. Distracted Driving 

Distracted woman using her phone while driving Driver inattention, or distracted driving, is one of the most common causes of motor vehicle crashes.

According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving led to 3,142 people losing their lives in 2019 [1]. 

Zendrive, a driving analytics company, found that 69 million drivers use their cell phones daily while driving [2]. Using a cell phone is a primary offense in some states, such as Florida.

“Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system — anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.”The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Cell phone use isn’t the only source of distraction. Any activity that requires a driver to take their hands off the steering wheel is seen as distracting, such as:

  • Adjusting the radio stations, temperature, GPS
  • Personal grooming
  • Watching another event, such as a traffic accident
  • Eating and drinking while driving
  • Talking with other passengers
  • Reaching for backseat items
  • Reading while driving
  • Watching videos while driving

Distracted drivers can’t react to road hazards, traffic signs and curves, and other motorists on time.

Things not to do while driving:

2. Drowsy Driving

Drowsy and sleepy yawning man driving on the road The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that one in 25 drivers falls asleep behind the wheel. It’s estimated that drowsy drivers are responsible for 91,000 traffic collisions and about 800 deaths per year [3].

Drowsy driving can happen because of tiredness, lack of sleep, medications, and even hangovers. 

Even if the driver doesn’t fall asleep, feeling drowsy can negatively impact their ability to drive and cause reckless driving. The driver doesn’t pay enough attention to the road, and their reaction time is slowed. 

3. Impaired Driving

Man drinking alcohol while driving Impaired driving involves drivers driving motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which can also include prescription drugs.

Motor vehicle crashes involving drunk driving kill about 30 people daily [4].

Under the law, if a driver has unlawful alcohol content in their body or drives under the influence of drugs, they can be convicted of a DUI and pay harsh penalties.

Driving under the influence affects:

  • Reactions — Alcohol and drugs slow down reflexes, so the driver can’t react quickly enough to avoid a traffic collision.
  • Focus — Impaired drivers find it hard to stay awake and focused on the road.
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  • Coordination — Hands, feet, and sight coordination is needed to drive safely, which is difficult for impaired drivers.
  • Vision — Drugs and alcohol affect eye muscle function and movement, often causing blurred vision, especially at night.
  • Cognition — Impaired drivers have problems making quick decisions.

Wrong turns, in general, are among the leading causes of traffic collisions, but this especially applies to left turns at intersections. 

A left turn is problematic because it exposes the vehicle to oncoming traffic. Sometimes it can be difficult for a driver to assess how fast the other drivers are moving. 

Moreover, the headlights, sunlight, or traffic lights can lower the driver’s vision and prevent them from seeing the situation clearly.

Related Article: Drunk Driving Accident Lawsuit & Lawyer

4. Speeding

Speedometer of car reaching a certain speed It’s estimated that speeding is the second most common cause of traffic collisions, and it causes about 55% of all car accidents in the US [5].

The impact of a car collision is greater when a driver goes over the speed limit. This leads to more severe injuries and even fatal collisions. Also, driving over the speed limit means the driver can’t react to changes in traffic and road abstractions.

Drivers tend to lose control of the vehicle, and they brake to avoid hazards, which results in motor vehicle accidents.

NHTSA says there are four kinds of speeding patterns [6]:

  • Situational speeding — Involves motor vehicle drivers who don’t normally speed, but only on occasion. These drivers don’t follow the safe speed when they are running late or when there are traffic delays.
  • Incidental speeding — Drivers who also don’t usually drive over the speed limit, and when they do, they don’t go over it too much. It usually happens on a small number of trips and not throughout the whole trip.
  • Casual speeding — These drivers often go over the posted speed limit and speed for a part of their trip. This is attributed to systematic behaviors. 
  • Habitual speeding — These drivers regularly go over the posted speed limit for the whole or a large part of the trip.

5. Running a Red Light

Exactly 846 people were killed in 2019 in collisions involving drivers running red lights [7].

If drivers run a red light or stop signs, they risk oncoming drivers hitting them, as they won’t expect other vehicles to be approaching.

6. Aggressive Driving

Another common cause of car accidents is aggressive driving. This is defined as a behavior that a driver commits, which includes moving traffic offenses. These offenses endanger other drivers. 

“Any unsafe driving behavior performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for safety can constitute aggressive driving.” AAA Exchange 

Examples of aggressive driving include:

  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Switching lanes erratically and without a turn signal
  • Running a red light
  • Failure to yield
  • Cutting in front of other motorists
  • Traffic weaving

Apart from these, road rage includes rude gestures, throwing objects at other motorists, forcing drivers off the road, ramming, and more.

Related Article: Everything to Know About Brake Checking

7. Bad Weather

A car driving in a bad weather Bad weather conditions are another leading cause of traffic accidents. Inclement weather, such as fog, rain, ice, and even sun glare, can affect the driver’s visual perception of the road ahead. 

Slippery roads are the leading cause of crashes. When moisture mixes with dust and oil, it reduces traction, and the driver can lose control of the vehicle. 

However, other weather conditions can also be extremely dangerous. High winds and high temperatures also affect the driver’s abilities and lead to slower reaction times. 

8. Defective Vehicle Parts

The last on the list of accident risk factors are defective vehicle parts.

In this situation, the driver isn’t at fault for the traffic collision but a defective product or a badly manufactured part. 

The vast majority of defective vehicle part accidents lead not only to injuries but to property damage as well.

What to Do After a Car Collision 

An ambulance helping the driver and the passenger in a recent accident

There are several things you should do after a car collision:

  1. Get medical help — If you’re able, call 911 yourself. Even if you feel alright, it’s a good idea to get checked out, as some injuries don’t manifest straight away.
  2. Get contact information from other motorists and witnesses — Apart from getting contact information, you should also get insurance company information from the other person.
  3. Gather evidence — Use your phone to take pictures of the accident, license plates, and injuries.
  4. Get a personal injury attorney — The attorney will explain your legal right and help you get compensation.

Related Articles:

See all related car accident lawsuits our attorneys covered so far.


What is the most common cause of collisions?

The most common cause of collisions is distracted driving. According to the NHTSA, 8.5% of fatal car accidents in 2019 were due to distracted driving [8].

What is an example of a common collision type?

An example of a common collision is a single-vehicle crash. This includes the person behind the wheel falling asleep, being intoxicated, distracted, weather conditions, and more.

Get a Trustworthy Personal Injury Attorney

After being involved in a car accident, many drivers don’t know what legal action to take. There are many factors to consider, such as the cause of the collision, the person at-fault, insurance, driving at high speeds, and more.

Schmidt & Clark, LLP lawyers are car accident experts. They will explain your next steps and help you get the damages due to you.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.