What Causes Car Accidents?
A car accident can put the brakes on your personal and professional life, and your household will suffer the economic and non-economic effects. You might need medical care, be out of work, and not participate in your usual activities around the house for some time.
As these losses take a toll on you and your family, you should learn whether someone is liable for your injuries. This determination depends on the cause of your collision - precisely if someone else’s negligence led to your accident and injuries.
There are many causes of collisions that lead to injury insurance claims or lawsuits. Read on to learn more about the most common causes of crashes and how an experienced car accident attorney can help you recover the total amount of compensation you need and deserve.
Distracted Driving Is a Leading Cause of Collisions
Distracted driving is - hands down - the leading cause of traffic collisions in the United States. In one recent year, distracted drivers caused at least 3,142 fatalities and thousands more injuries. The number is likely much higher as many drivers do not self-report being distracted before a crash.
Distracted driving refers to any activity that takes a driver’s:
- Eyes from the road
- Hands from the wheel
- Focus from the task of driving
Even checking on children in the back seat or drinking coffee on your way to work can be distracting activities. Most drivers are regularly distracted and might not even realize it.
Distracted driving has been a bigger problem in recent years with the rise of smartphones and other mobile technology. Multitasking has a new meaning in the modern world, as we have email and other communications at our fingertips - including while driving. The temptation to quickly multitask in the car with your smartphone can be significant, but even a moment of looking at a phone can cause a driver to hit another vehicle.
The Risks of Texting and Driving
Many safe driving advocates consider texting and related activities the most dangerous distraction today. Looking at your phone to read or write a text-based message combines all three types of distraction - visual, manual, and cognitive. Some drivers think they can look at their phones and continue to drive safely, but this misconception causes thousands of accidents and serious injuries each year.
Forty-eight states and all U.S. territories ban texting and driving. Only Missouri and Montana have yet to pass a texting ban for all drivers, though Missouri prohibits texting for drivers younger than 21. Some states like Florida only have a texting ban, while about half of the states ban all handheld smartphone activity, including making non-emergency phone calls while holding a phone.
If you suffer injuries in a crash and call 911, law enforcement officers should arrive and try to determine whether one or more drivers violated the law. If one driver admits to texting or witnesses saw the driver texting, an officer might issue a citation. If necessary, injured victims can use this citation to prove liability in an insurance claim.
Hands-Free Systems are Still Distracting
With many bans on handheld devices, drivers might rely on hands-free systems to make phone calls, listen to text messages they receive, or dictate text messages to send out while driving. However, hands-free systems still distract drivers, and they might give drivers a false sense of safety and security, so they are less careful while using these systems.
Moreover, many people think that smartwatches and smaller devices are safer than smartphones. When a smartwatch vibrates, a driver has to check their watch and read small text, which can take a few seconds. Even one second of looking away from the road is enough to cause an accident.
Other hands-free systems that might cause distractions include GPS systems and listening to audiobooks or podcasts. Drivers might need to check the GPS screen to clarify directions, leading them to crash. Many drivers underestimate the distraction from listening to content in the car, but drivers can get immersed in a story and lose cognitive focus on the road.
Not every distraction involves a smartphone or technology, as distracted drivers existed and caused accidents long before cell phones or smart technology evolved.
Some distractions that do not involve technology include:
- Eating or drinking, especially hot liquids or messy foods
- Reading a book (yes, this happens!)
- Reaching to grab something from the passenger side or back seat
- Tending to children in the back seat
- Grooming or looking in the mirror (for purposes other than driving)
All of these activities can lead to distracted driving collisions, and the distracted driver should be liable for all the injuries and losses they cause.
How to Prove a Driver was Distracted
In some cases, proving a driver was distracted is fairly straightforward. The driver might exit the car and admit to being distracted. They might say something like, “I only looked down for a second” or “I didn’t notice traffic stopped.” Their statements can be evidence of distraction and liability. If the police issue a citation and the driver pleads guilty or receives a conviction for texting and driving, it can also prove liability.
Other cases are not so simple. Drivers might not admit to doing anything wrong or receive citations, which means your car accident lawyer will need other proof of liability. In some situations, a lawyer might obtain phone records to show the driver sent a text right when the accident happened, though this is not always feasible.
Even if you cannot prove the driver’s specific distraction, your lawyer can examine other ways to prove negligence.
- The distracted driver departed their lane and sideswiped your vehicle.
- Even if you cannot prove distraction specifically, departing from an intended lane is negligent driving on its own.
- Your attorney can use the lane departure as proof of negligence without proving a specific distraction.
Proving liability is complex in distracted driving crashes, so you want an experienced car accident attorney to handle your claim.
Other Common Causes of Car Crashes
While distracted driving is currently the leading cause of car accidents in the U.S., other forms of driver negligence regularly lead to crashes and injuries. Your lawyer will consider all possible negligent acts when evaluating whether you have a claim.
Statistics in recent years indicate that speeding was a factor in 26 percent of collisions. Speeding can combine with aggressive driving, drunk driving, and other misconduct, or speeding can cause a crash on its own.
Speeding can lead to accidents in many ways, including:
- A driver might not stop in time for obstacles or slowing traffic
- Drivers who take turns too fast might lose control of the vehicle
- Some drivers - especially truck drivers - might be within the speed limit but still driving too fast for weather or road conditions
Drivers might speed because they are in a hurry or out of aggression. Some drivers have a “lead foot” and regularly exceed the speed limit. Whatever the reason, speeding leads to crashes and injuries, and drivers should be accountable.
Each day in the United States, around 28 people die in accidents involving drunk driving. Drunk driving is illegal in every state, and every driver knows the risks of this unlawful behavior. With so many rideshare and public transportation options available today, there is no excuse for drunk driving, yet these preventable accidents continue to occur.
Proving a driver was drunk can be straightforward if the driver receives a conviction of driving under the influence (DUI). You always want to call 911 following a collision, especially if another driver shows signs of intoxication. Never confront an impaired driver, as they might be aggressive and unpredictable. Wait for the police to show up and tell them your suspicions that the driver might be drunk.
Drunk drivers might speed, swerve out of their lanes, drive on the wrong side of the road, or make other dangerous decisions. These drivers should face civil liability for their actions in addition to criminal penalties, and a car accident lawyer can help you recover compensation for your losses.
In a recent year, 697 traffic deaths happened due to drowsy driving. Many people do not think that fatigue affects their driving, but drowsiness can cause significant impairments.
Drowsiness can cause:
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Slower reaction times
- Nodding off at the wheel
- Falling asleep and losing complete control
There are different causes of drowsy driving, including overworking, sleep disorders like sleep apnea, illness, medication, and more. Whatever the cause of a driver’s drowsiness, they should not drive when they are over-tired, as doing so can cause accidents and injuries.
Drowsy driving is a particular problem for rideshare drivers and commercial truck drivers. While rideshare companies limit the number of hours a driver can log into the app without rest breaks, nothing stops someone from driving for multiple companies. For example, a driver might complete a shift for Uber and then another shift for Lyft, and they are likely tired in the final hours. Many rideshare drivers work a full-time job and then start their driving shifts, meaning they get little sleep and might be exhausted from a full workday.
Commercial truck drivers also have long driving shifts on monotonous highways. Even though they do not engage in physical labor, focusing on the road for long hours can cause driver fatigue. Hours of service restrictions require truck drivers to stop and rest after a certain number of hours. However, truck drivers do not always comply with these regulations, as there is pressure to complete deliveries on time.
Proving a driver was drowsy can be challenging, but like distracted driving, your car accident lawyer can use swerving or other behaviors to prove negligence.
Aggressive Driving and Road Rage
We all get impatient or upset at times, and some people allow these emotions to impact their driving ability.
When drivers are aggressive, they might engage in many dangerous behaviors behind the wheel, such as:
- Excessive speeding
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Passing on the shoulder
- Cutting off other drivers
- Running red lights or stop signs
Aggressive driving can lead to many traffic citations, accidents, and injuries.
Some drivers allow aggressive driving to escalate into road rage. While aggressive driving is reckless, road rage involves conduct that a driver knows will likely cause harm to others. Some road raging drivers intentionally cause collisions and injuries.
Road rage can include:
- Obscene and threatening gestures
- Excessive honking or flashing lights at other drivers
- Yelling at other drivers
- Displaying a weapon
- Purposely hitting another car
- Running another driver off the road
- Following a driver to continue the altercation
Some road rage incidents involve one driver shooting or otherwise assaulting another.
Road rage can result in criminal charges, but a criminal case does not cover a victim’s losses. Victims of aggressive driving or road rage collisions should discuss their legal options with a car accident lawyer immediately.
Following an accident, you should seek the medical treatment you need. Then, always seek the legal help necessary to obtain compensation for your injuries and losses. An experienced car accident attorney will know how to prove liability for your accident, whether it involves distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, drowsy driving, aggressive driving, or any other type of negligence. Never delay a consultation with legal professionals about your accident.
Connect With an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Right Away
Having a lawyer on your side as soon as possible after your accident will improve your chances of a successful outcome. A lawyer can prove liability and maximize your compensation, ensuring you receive coverage of all your losses.
The right attorney will also take the stress of negotiating and communicating with the other parties and their insurance companies out of your day-to-day life. To discuss options regarding a possible car accident case, schedule a consultation with a trusted car accident law firm as soon as possible.