Causes of Car Accidents
In one recent year, motorists suffered 249,241 injuries throughout Texas due to traffic crashes, with 3,639 fatalities in the state, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Closer to home, Corpus Christi witnessed 8,601 total crashes last year, causing 29 fatalities, 137 serious injuries, and 755 non-incapacitating injuries. What are the causes of all these accidents? Unfortunately, as most motorists know, there is no single cause of accidents. However, we can discuss the data available and the most common causes. Let’s review these below. If you still have questions, speaking with a skilled car accident attorney at The Patel Firm can be the difference of you getting compensation or not.
Common Driver Behaviors That Cause Accidents
The Insurance Information Institute has published the most common types of driving behaviors that cause accidents.
Speeding is by far the most common cause of accidents. Driving too fast is responsible for nearly 17 percent of fatal accidents nationwide. While this includes driving faster than the posted speed limit, it also includes driving too fast for the conditions, such as driving too fast to stop in wet weather. It also includes special situations such as drag racing.
The second most common cause of accidents, sadly, is driving while impaired with (DWI) alcohol, drugs, or medication. DWI-related crashes cause more than 10 percent of fatalities nationwide. Why sadly? Because the causes of these accidents are completely preventable. Nonetheless, someone is hurt or killed every 20 minutes in Texas in a DWI-related crash. In Corpus Christi alone, there were 174 DWI crashes in 2018, causing five fatalities, 22 serious injuries, and 51 non-incapacitating injuries.
Failure to keep in the proper lane was the third biggest cause of fatalities, causing 7.3 percent of traffic deaths nationwide.
Failure to yield the right-of-way was the fourth largest cause of traffic deaths nationwide. It was responsible for 7.1 percent of crash deaths.
Two behaviors tied for fifth place. Both caused 5.7 percent of crash-related deaths. One was distracted driving. Although distracted driving is often linked to cell phone use, drivers should remember that any behavior that distracts from paying attention to driving itself, the road, and other drivers is distracted driving. Reading a map or reaching for your coffee is distracted driving. Daydreaming can be distracted driving.
The other was something of a catchall: carelessly operating a car caused 5.7 percent of crash-related deaths.
The seventh leading cause of deaths caused by driver behavior was failure to obey traffic signs, traffic signals, or law enforcement. These behaviors were responsible for 4 percent of deaths.
The eighth most common driver behavior in fatal accidents, causing 3.8 percent of deaths, was driving recklessly, erratically, or negligently.
Next, at the ninth most common, was overcorrecting or oversteering, which was responsible for 3.5 percent of crash deaths.
The tenth most common cause of crash deaths was obscured vision, causing 3.0 percent of them. Vision can be obscured or limited due to inclement weather, glare, trees, and so on.
Fatigue, sleepiness, sudden illness, blacking out, and falling asleep at the wheel, astonishingly, causes 2.5 percent of accidents.
More than 2 percent of fatal accidents are caused by a car being driven the wrong way in one-way traffic, or on the wrong side of the road in two-way traffic.
Swerving or other avoidant behavior causes 2.1 percent of traffic deaths.
Finally, making an improper turn causes 1 percent of traffic-related fatalities.
You may have noticed that this list does not add to 100 percent. That’s because more than 50 percent of traffic accidents list no information or unknown causes. This list does, however, remind motorists of the importance of following Texas law and the rules of the road, as so many driver behaviors that cause deaths and injuries are against the law or contrary to safe driving procedures.
Collisions With Objects
A relatively high percentage of car accidents, 30 percent, are caused by collisions with fixed objects, including trees (the largest contributor, at 7.5 percent), culverts, curbs, or ditches, poles, guardrails, embankments, and bridges. Another 22 percent of fatal traffic collisions are caused by collisions with objects that aren’t fixed, such as parked vehicles, trains, pedestrians, and animals.
Time of Year, Time of Week, Time of Day
We are currently entering the end-of-year holiday season. While a festive time, it is, unfortunately, also a time at which more accidents take place than usual. October is statistically a heavy month for traffic accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This could be related to the darkening skies—there is less daylight, and periods when people are getting used to less daylight are frequently periods more car accidents take place.
Not only that, but the October-early November period is also when much of the nation switches to standard time from daylight savings time. While the switch can lead to more daylight earlier in the morning, it means it gets darker earlier—during the evening commute from work for many people. As a result, the time switch also causes more accidents, as people adjust to the relative darkness.
Frankly, driving in the dark is harder than driving in the light. More accidents happen at night regardless of the time of year. Darkness can affect a driver’s ability to perceive objects, their depth perception (including the relative closeness of objects), and peripheral vision—all very important in safe driving. Headlight glare from oncoming vehicles can also affect a driver’s ability to see.
But it isn’t just the increasing lack of daylight that causes crashes, it’s the holidays themselves. Thanksgiving week, for example, is a time of heightened travel, both on the road and on airlines. It’s also a time where people may be drinking alcohol more than usual, or speeding to get to holiday celebrations or airports on time. As a result, Thanksgiving week sees 50 more deaths, on average, than other weeks of the year.
Holidays in general are times of increased traffic fatalities, driven by increased driving, potential speeding, and the possible effects of drinking or other substances on driving. Thanksgiving Day itself is the holiday with the most traffic-related deaths, but other holidays have a high number of traffic deaths, on average. In order, the most dangerous holidays (after Thanksgiving) are Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Speeding, the number of cars on the road, and the potential involvement of alcohol or drugs don’t only render holidays dangerous. They also have an impact on certain times of the week, as well. Roughly half of all deaths in traffic accidents happen on the weekend (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday), according to NHTSA statistics. The peak time for danger is Saturday night.
Flaws in the Car Itself
Car accidents can, unfortunately, also be caused by flaws in the car itself. Manufacturing defects can either cause a car to be unsafe or cause a lack of performance in certain maneuvers. At times, manufacturing defects can be solved by recalls, which instruct a driver to bring their car into a dealership to be fixed. But knowledge of manufacturing defects is, unfortunately, usually uncovered by accidents or mishaps while driving. A certain number of these occur before the manufacturer realizes there is a defect.
Vehicles can also be subject to design defects, in which the vehicle or part of it hasn’t been designed to operate properly or safely. In design defects, too, the problem is usually brought to light when accidents caused by the design defect start to happen in large enough numbers to be noticeable.
At times, the condition of roads may cause car accidents. A very deep pothole, for example, can send a car veering into another lane. Uneven pavement can cause cars to tip and roll over, or cause the driver to lose control of the car. Poorly marked lanes or exit/entrances may result in drivers not being sure of what lanes they are in, or where they should slow down and change lanes.
Road construction can also cause accidents, for multiple reasons. At times, detour routes may be marked off poorly or confusingly, so that drivers collide with each other. Night road construction can result in large glaring lights that disorient drivers and affect their depth perception.
What Are Common Injuries Caused by Car Accidents?
Car accidents can cause many types of injuries. The most common include:
- Ligament damage (sprains and strains)
- Broken bones
- Deep bruising and contusions
- Cuts and puncture wounds
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Herniated discs
- Road rash
- Broken teeth
- Head/brain trauma
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ injuries
- Scarring and disfigurement
I Was Injured in a Car Accident—Who Is Responsible?
Accidents Caused by Other Drivers
If you have suffered one of these injuries, a combination of other injuries, or an unusual injury and the accident was caused by another driver—or any action not your own—it’s natural to wonder who is responsible.
Injuries can cause financial loss and emotional pain. If you’ve been injured, you may have medical bills piling up. You may have lost time from work and thus be either making less or be unable to work again if your injuries are severe. You may be in pain or suffering other emotional losses. If another party was responsible for the accident, it may be possible to bring either a personal injury claim against the responsible party or a third-party insurance claim against their insurer.
Responsibility must be proven. If a driver suddenly changes lanes without seeing your car, for instance, the driver is likely responsible for the accident. Drivers in Texas are responsible for the safe operation of their vehicles and for obeying all traffic laws and regulations. They are also responsible for maintaining their vehicles in a safe condition. If they violate those responsibilities and cause an accident, they can be liable for the injuries caused by the accident.
Texas is an at-fault state for insurance purposes. Drivers who were at fault for an accident are responsible for paying for damages they caused, including compensating injured parties for relevant medical bills, lost wages from work, and property damage. All drivers in the state are required to carry car insurance in case of an accident. The required minimums are $30,000 for bodily injury liability per person injured in an accident, $60,000 for total bodily injury liability when two or more people are injured in an accident, and $25,000 for property damage.
The insurance company of the at-fault driver should thus compensate you for losses. You and all other drivers involved at the scene of an accident should exchange contact information and insurance information so that you can contact the appropriate insurance company to be compensated. However, there are times when the insurance company of the at-fault driver might not compensate you appropriately or adequately.
First, they may dispute the causes of the accident. Insurance companies have an incentive to avoid paying out claims at all, and they also have an incentive to minimize any claims they do pay out. They could argue that other factors were to blame for the accident. They can even bring forth evidence, whether the evidence is compelling or not.
Second, you may be injured in such a way that the minimum insurance coverage does not begin to justly compensate you. In today’s world, $30,000 doesn’t go far in medical bills, particularly once ambulance rides, hospital stays, surgeries, medication, and rehabilitative therapy are factored in. The adequacy of standard coverage depends very much on the nature of the accident and the injuries it caused. If the insurance company is not treating you fairly, you have two options. One is to bring a claim, termed a third-party insurance claim, against the insurer for the full amount you deserve. The other is to bring a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
Accidents Caused by Other Parties
What if your accident was not caused by other drivers? In the case of an accident caused by a company that made cars with design or manufacturing defects, it may be possible to bring a personal injury suit against the company. Again, it must be proven that the defects caused by injury. Expert testimony may be required. If road conditions or road construction caused the accident, it may be possible to sue the entity responsible, either a state or local government, or the contractor. In these cases too, it must be proven that the conditions caused by accident.
In all these causes, evidence is vital. Accidents should be reported to law enforcement. The officer who comes to the scene will make a police report. This is often a crucial piece of evidence about who and what caused the accident. At times, it is necessary to investigate the causes of an accident. Attorneys often work with investigative teams who can gather testimony, surveillance footage (if any), and analyze the scene forensically.
If you need further assistance after suffering injuries due to a car accident, an experienced car accident lawyer can help.