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What is the Most Common Cause of Motor Vehicle Accidents?

by Levin & Nalbandyan, LLP
August 26, 2020
Personal Injury

There are millions of reported motor vehicle accidents across the country each year, as well as millions of accident-related injuries and thousands of traffic fatalities. What bad driving habit is causing the most harm on American roadways? According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver distraction could be causing the most crashes, but speeding could be causing the most deaths.

How Common is Distracted Driving?

Getting exact information about how many crashes are caused by distracted driving is difficult, mainly because drivers do not want to admit when they were driving while distracted. Most drivers instinctively know that texting, applying makeup, eating, talking to passengers, and so forth is dangerous when driving, so they are ashamed when they cause a crash because of it. Many others know that engaging in some of the most common forms of driver distractions is also unlawful, so they make up another excuse as to why they crashed when talking to first responders.

Despite peoples’ proclivity to lie about their distracted driving habits, the National Safety Council still estimates it to be the leading cause of car accidents each year. In some reports, distracted driving is attributed to about 26% of all crashes, but others estimate that number should actually be as high as 40% or 50%.

With the advent of affordable smartphones, practically everyone has a major distraction right at their fingertips whenever they are behind the wheel. The rate of distracted driving accidents has predictably gone up as smartphone ownership has increased, too.

Is Speeding the Deadliest Form of Driver Habits?

Since reliable information regarding driver distraction is intrinsically difficult to gather, it is equally difficult to know how many traffic deaths are caused by distraction. On the other hand, crash investigators, insurance adjusters, police officers, and others can reliably use their training and instincts to know when speeding has caused a motor vehicle accident. Everything from eyewitness testimony and tire skid marks to the severity of vehicular destruction can all suggest when speeding was a factor in a crash.

NHTSA data regarding traffic fatalities caused by speeding:

  • 2017: 9,717 or 26%
  • 2016: 10,291 or 27%
  • 2015: 9,723 or 27%

Given these statistics, it can be said that speeding is the leading cause of traffic fatalities based on data that can be readily confirmed. It is important to note that speeding does not only mean driving faster than the posted speed limit. Speeding is also driving too fast for given driving conditions, i.e. driving too quickly during a rainstorm despite traveling under regular speed limits is still dangerous and can cause a serious crash.

What About Other Types of Driving Habits?

Although driver distractions and speeding are most likely the two worst offenders for causing traffic collisions, other bad habits and issues should not be overlooked. Drunk driving still remains a menace to roadway safety, even though the total number of drunk driving crashes has either slightly declined or held relatively steady in recent years. Poor road conditions also cause serious accidents each year, which is particularly frustrating given that local municipalities and transportation departments should be monitoring and maintaining roads regularly. There are also many crashes and injuries caused directly by a mechanical failure, such as brake failures, weak tires that burst, and explosive airbags.

The lesson overall is that car accidents and related injuries can happen for a variety of reasons, so it is always best to take precautions as you can. You should keep a trusted personal injury law firm’s number saved in your phone, so you can call them in a hurry in case you ever are injured in a motor vehicle accident.

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