Car Accidents: Common Causes


Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2010:

  • 32,788 traffic fatalities
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 

As the United States of America’s population breaches 300 million people in 2010, transportation continues to be an essential aspect of daily life. For many people, that means getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and driving. But with so many drivers on the roads, busy highways and plenty of potential distractions, car accidents seem to be inevitable and a very serious risk to consider (see statistic on side).

There are many reasons why a car accident could happen—inclement weather conditions, distracted driving and driving under the influence are a few—but they may be avoidable if you take proper care with your driving habits. A responsible driver may be able to save time, money, frustration and preserve their health by being knowledgeable and practice safe driving.


One of the factors that may contribute to car accidents, which is out of the driver’s control, is the weather. Inclement weather conditions, such as rain, high winds, snow, or ice may result in serious car accidents.

Rain is a common condition in inclement weather. If there is a particularly heavy amount of rain that lasts for a long period of time, and if there is a poor system of water drainage on the roads, a driver may find themselves hydroplaning on flooded streets. Hydroplaning is when your car skims across a layer of surface water that separates your tires from the road and doesn’t allow your car to grip the road, or create traction. A driver’s best defense against flooded streets and potential hydroplaning is to slow down and use extreme caution around turns and bends.

In cold winter climates—especially in northern regions—snow and ice are prominent concerns for drivers. Snow and ice have the potential to decrease the traction between your car’s tires and the road so that it may take longer to stop and longer to accelerate. Snow may generally decrease the road’s visibility to the driver, hide dangerous obstacles and debris, and muffle sounds that the driver might normally be able to hear, such as sirens and horns.

“Black ice” is a phenomenon in cold weather that could potentially cause a car accident, as well. Black ice is not ice that’s actually the color black, but it’s when water freezes in a thin layer, making it hard to see or nearly invisible. It’s almost transparent and seems to be simply a natural part of the road. If a driver runs over this ice without seeing it, they could lose contact with the ground and go sliding out of control.

Certain government agencies are responsible for clearing roads and ensuring drivers’ safety after a snowstorm, heavy rain, or other dangerous weather. This process may not be very fast, though, and drivers should remember to be patient, drive slowly, and keep safety as their top priority when behind the wheel.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Admiistration defines “distraction” as “a specific type of inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention from the driv¬ing task to focus on some other activity instead.” In 2009, 17 percent of car crashes were attributed to distracted driving.

There are generally three different categories of distraction:
  • Visual distractions: elements that take the driver’s eyes off the task at hand.
  • Manual distractions: elements that cause the driver to take their hands off the wheel.
  • Cognitive distractions: elements that take the driver’s mind off the task they’re currently doing.
Distractions may include everything from daydreaming, drowsiness, elevated emotions, conversations, grooming, reading or looking at a map or GPS, eating or drinking, and talking or texting on a cellphone . Several of these may even take place simultaneously and could compound and increase the likelihood of a car accident.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a large contributing factor to car accidents across many age groups. In some states, it’s known as driving while impaired (DWI), and they usually include prescription and non-prescription drugs as types of “impairment” as well as alcohol. In 2009, 32 percent of fatal car accidents involved alcohol with the driver’s blood-alcohol content at 0.08 or more. Most states are becoming aware of such high statistics of DUI’s and are implementing “Zero Tolerance” type policies.

Visit the Governor’s Highway Safety Association to look up the laws and penalties in your state for drunken driving.

Car Accidents and Car Accident Attorneys

There are many factors that may contribute to serious car accidents. Being aware and knowledgeable of how they may occur and how you can avoid them may protect you in future circumstances. But if you find yourself in a confusing, frustrating, costly and serious car accident, you may need to speak with a car accident lawyer to help you understand your rights and to help guide you through the claims process. Contact a car accident lawyer at the Coye Law Firm today and call 800-648-4941.