What Are the Main Causes of Car Accidents?

The main causes of car accidents vary by region, but several primary factors contribute to the majority of all traffic collisions in the U.S. today.

Driver error accounts for 94% of all car accidents, and drivers can prevent most of these errors by adhering to traffic laws and exercising caution while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Of those driver-related errors:

  • 41% were due to distractions and inattention.
  • 33% were due to speeding, illegal maneuvering, and other decision errors.
  • 11% were due to poor control of the vehicle, and other performance errors.
  • 15% were other driver errors (most frequently, falling asleep behind the wheel).

Distracted Driving

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that since the growth of cell phone use, distracted driving has become one of the main causes of all car accidents in the United States. Cell phone use plays a part in approximately one in four car accidents.

In 2010, more than 1 million accidents involved cell phones. The same year, texting and emailing were involved in 160,000 collisions. While many state laws now forbid texting while driving or holding a cell phone to make a call, hands-free devices, while often legal, do not eliminate the risk of distraction. According to the NSC, drivers miss seeing up to 50% of their surroundings when they talk on a cell phone, even hands-free, as they cannot fully focus on both driving and talking at once. Other forms of distracted driving include:

  • Adjusting mirrors
  • Playing with the radio or GPS devices
  • Putting on makeup
  • Reaching for items in other parts of the vehicle
  • Eating and drinking
  • Looking at the scenery instead of the road

Driving Impaired

The NHTSA reported that in 2016, drunk driving accounted for 10,497, or nearly one-third, of the car accident fatalities in the United States that year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that other drugs contribute to impaired driving accidents, as well, and have an involvement in about 16% of all collisions. While the legalization of marijuana becomes more widespread in the United States, marijuana users have a 25% higher risk of becoming involved in an accident.


In 2016, speeding resulted in nearly as many deaths as drunk driving. According to the NHTSA, for over two decades approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities have involved speeding. Dangers speeding can present include:

  • Increased risk of losing control of the vehicle
  • Decreased effectiveness of airbags and other safety equipment
  • Increased accident severity
  • Increased braking distance

Environmental Factors Play a Role in Car Accidents

In addition to reckless behavior on the road, environmental factors can impact a person’s ability to make safe decisions while driving. Sometimes the choices drivers make do not suit their driving conditions, resulting in accidents. Some other main causes of car accidents include the following.

Decreased Visibility

While drivers across the United States drive significantly more during the day than at night, half of all car accident deaths occur during nighttime hours. Foggy headlights, dirty windshields, and reflective eyeglasses can all cause car accidents, as well as other factors, including:

  • Decreased night vision
  • Urgency to arrive home after work
  • Fatigue

Impaired driving sometimes ties into nighttime accidents, as well, as most drivers under the influence of alcohol, prescription pills, or other drugs take to the road at night.

Bad Weather

Poor weather, such as fog, rain, snow, and other conditions that require drivers to maneuver the road more carefully, often lead to car accidents. Weather conditions can cause accidents because of:

  • Decreased visibility
  • Slippery roadways
  • Lane obstruction
  • Damage to roadways
  • Road flooding

Faulty Vehicle Equipment Can Contribute to Car Accidents

In some cases, defects in the vehicle’s equipment can cause it to malfunction, resulting in a car accident. While proper vehicle maintenance can prevent many of these instances, vehicle manufacturers sometimes have responsibility for releasing defective equipment into the market.

If the driver used the vehicle as intended, and the vehicle remained in roughly the same condition as it was purchased at the time of the accident, the circumstances may allow the driver to hold the manufacturer responsible.

D. Miller & Associates, PLLC™ Can Help You with Your Car Accident Case

If someone else’s negligent or unlawful behavior caused your car accident, our attorneys might be able to help you collect the information you need to hold them accountable for your injuries or the loss of your loved one. We can help you seek financial compensation, which may include recovery for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Mental anguish
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of consortium
  • Punitive damages

Contact the team at D. Miller & Associates, PLLC™ today at (713) 850-8600 to get started on your case.