The five most common causes of vehicular accidents are distracted driving, intoxicated driving, speeding, inclement weather, and ignoring traffic signals. Even these five causes, however, only scratch the surface of the entire panorama. A vehicle accident can be caused by dozens of factors, some of which are listed below.
If you are driving on a country road and you see a sign that says “Deer Xing,” pay attention. Wild animals don’t understand the rules of the road, and a collision with a large animal can cause a fatal accident. If you are driving at night, use your high beams except when a car is coming toward you.
The laws of physics are merciless. When you are approaching a curve, your vehicle’s momentum pushes you forward. Turning the steering wheel will help you make it around a curve, but only if you are not travelling too fast. The sharper the turn, the slower you will have to drive to make it around the curve. The danger is especially acute when the roads are slick. Pay attention to the posted speed limit.
Missing the curve is only one danger. Another danger is when you try to round a curve wide, allowing your car to swing into the opposite lane because the curve is too tight to successfully navigate it otherwise. This sort of behavior is an invitation to a head-on collision with another car who cannot even see you coming. Honk your horn when rounding a tight curve in case another driver is making that mistake.
Construction sites can be confusing because lanes are typically marked, not with paint and asphalt, but with cones. Pay attention, do your best to avoid confusion, and take precautions against confusion by other drivers.
Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of road accidents in the United States. Although typical distracted driving deaths involve the use of cell phones, even brushing your hair or listening to loud music can provide a fatal distraction.
Drowsy driving (and, in the worst-case scenario, sleeping while driving) is beyond dangerous. This offense is most often committed by long-haul commercial truck drivers with strict schedules to meet. Although state and federal regulations restrict the number of hours a truck driver can drive without resting, these rules, like all other rules, are sometimes broken. Remember that even a 30-minute nap can rejuvenate you.
Drunk driving is a factor in more than 50 percent of all traffic accidents in the United States. Drunk driving is dangerous not so much because of impaired eye-hand coordination, but because of impaired judgment, which leads to reckless driving decisions. Commercial drivers are held to much stricter standards of intoxication than ordinary drivers are.
With the opioid epidemic, drugged driving is becoming increasingly common. Even driving while “stoned” on marijuana is dangerous, because it tends to induce excessive caution and indecisiveness in a driver, which can be just as dangerous as aggressive driving. You can be charged with DUI for drugged driving just as you can be for drunk driving.
Driving through heavy fog is like driving while blind. Even more dangerously, patches of fog can hit you unexpectedly, usually when you drive downhill. Although headlights are essential when driving through fog, never use your high beams because they will cause blinding glare that will further reduce your visibility. Resist the temptation to stop in the middle of the road. Pull onto the shoulder of the road if you absolutely have to stop
Ice and Snow
Ice and snow (especially ice) cause traffic accidents by increasing stopping distances. “Black ice” is the most dangerous, because it is nearly invisible and because it can result in nearly zero friction. During cold weather, you can hit a patch of ice with no warning whatsoever. If you rear-end someone, odds are the accident will be ruled your fault.
The best advice for driving in snow and ice is to drive slowly. Also, don’t slam down hard on your brakes, because that could put you into a skid that might swing the back end of your car into a lane of oncoming traffic.
Always use your turn signal, and if your turn signal is broken, get it repaired immediately. Even more dangerous than turning without a signal is turning from the wrong lane, which could cause a side impact collision that will probably not even inflate your airbags. When making a left turn, watch out for oncoming motorcycles in the opposing lane of traffic that you will cross while executing your turn. Never make illegal U-turns.
Lack of visibility works a lot like the elongated stopping distances you encounter on slick roads — you have very little reaction time to avoid a collision. One of the most dangerous habits you can cultivate is using your high beams while driving at night. They will blind a driver coming the other way, and could result in a head-on collision. Only use your high beams when absolutely necessary.
Accidents caused by potholes are utterly avoidable, and the prospect of such an accident is frightening because you probably won’t know you are approaching a pothole until you hit one. The most serious danger of potholes, however, is instinctively swerving around one – right into oncoming traffic. If you end up filing a claim over a pothole accident, the city government might make an appropriate defendant.
Racing is the single most avoidable cause of traffic accidents. It is also among the deadliest, because of the speeds involved, especially if the participants are driving “souped up” cars. Racing on public roads is illegal, and participating in a race is more than simple negligence. If you are a third party injured in a racing accident, you might be able to win punitive damages.
Driving on wet roads reduces stopping distances, although not as much as driving on snowy or icy roads. Driving while rain is pouring down, however, can drastically reduce visibility. One of the most overlooked causes of traffic accidents is windshield wiper malfunction during a rainstorm. You may need to pull over to the side of the road or a little-used side street until the worst of the storm passes.
Reckless driving is a catch-all term that refers to a variety of dangerous driving actions that go beyond mere negligence. Reckless acts might include changing lanes quickly and without warning in congested traffic, drastically exceeding the speed limit, and passing into oncoming traffic.
Road rage is utterly inexcusable and all too common, especially in high-stress, congested city environments. Road rage accidents are intentionally inflicted by aggressive, enraged drivers. Such a driver may tailgate you, pull ahead of you, and then slow down abruptly. They may even force your car to a stop and try to pull you out of the car. These kinds of intentional offenses can trigger a claim for punitive damages once the claim reaches court.
Running Red Lights and Stop Signs
Running a red light or a stop sign invites a side-impact collision. A common mistake that frequently causes accidents is confusing an ordinary stop sign with a four-way stop, with consequences you can easily imagine. Another common mistake is speeding up when the light turns yellow in an attempt to “beat the light.” If you are involved in an accident after running a red light or a stop sign, you will probably be blamed for the accident.
You might consider speeding to make it to an important meeting on time. When this temptation arises, try to remember how long an accident will delay your arrival. Statistically, speeding is the second most common cause of accidents, although distracted driving may overtake it soon.
Tailgating is often used as an intimidation tactic and, right or wrong, commercial truck drivers have a reputation for frequently engaging in this behavior. Don’t allow yourself to become frustrated by a “slowpoke.” It is better to arrive at your destination late than to suffer a rear-end accident that you will probably be blamed for. High-speed tailgating is particularly dangerous.
Being a teenager does not, in itself, cause traffic accidents. Teenagers are involved in more than their fair share of traffic accidents, however, for two reasons: (i) teenage drivers are less experienced, and (ii) teenage boys tend to drive aggressively. If you have a teenage son or daughter, be sure to teach them defensive driving skills, especially the art of anticipating a dangerous situation in advance.
Tire blowouts can be incredibly dangerous, because they happen without warning and because they can send your vehicle into a skid – sometimes into oncoming traffic. The best way to prepare against a blowout is to purchase quality tires, and replace them when they become aged.
Unsafe Lane Changes
Always use your turn signal when changing lanes, always use your rear-view mirror, know where your blind spots are, and never make sudden moves. If you need to move across more than one lane, do it one lane at a time. If you are following a truck that you fear will change lanes, remember this much: If you can’t see the vehicle’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you.
A vehicle defect could mean a manufacturing defect. It could also mean a design defect, such as a cruise control cutoff that appears as a button on the steering wheel rather than an automatic cutoff as soon as you tap the brakes. Personal injury and wrongful death claims based on vehicle defects are generally directed towards the manufacturer of the vehicle.
Nothing invites a head-on collision more than driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Drivers often make this mistake when turning the wrong way onto a one-way street because they ignore the road sign that should have warned them. Fortunately, one-way streets are usually limited to congested urban areas where average speeds are relatively slow.
There is no deadlier mistake, however, than entering onto the exit ramp of an interstate highway. In fact, it was just this mistake, committed by an intoxicated driver, that resulted in the explosion of a busload full of schoolchildren in 1988.
Now Is No Time for Delay
If you have suffered an injury in a vehicle accident, or if one of your loved ones was killed in such an accident, call Berkowitz Hanna at one of our office locations, or simply contact us online for a free initial consultation.