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What are the Most Common Accidents and What Causes Them?

side-view photo of rear-end accident

Car accidents happen all the time. On average, a fatal accident happens about every 15 minutes in the United States. Add to that all of the random fender-benders and other non-fatal accidents and you get an accident every 6 seconds. That’s about 6 million accidents every year! Most of these are preventable, so what causes them?

Distracted Driving

According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,450 fatalities resulted from distracted driving in 2016. Drivers can be distracted by:

  • Texting

  • Eating or Drinking

  • Adjusting Navigation, Climate, or Audio controls

  • Passengers in the Vehicle

  • General Absent-Mindedness

  • Distractions Outside of the Vehicle

This list only covers some of the most common examples of distracted driving. Essentially, it boils down to any activity that takes your attention away from the task of driving.

This can be a visual distraction, such as an accident on the side of the road that you look at as you pass by. It could also be a manual distraction that takes your hands off the steering wheel, such as adjusting the music in your car. Lastly, we have cognitive distractions that limit your mind’s ability to focus on the task of driving. Just looking away from the road for 5 seconds is long enough for you to travel an entire football field if you are driving at highway speeds.

Drunk Driving

About a third of all fatal car accidents in the U.S. are alcohol-related. On average, someone dies from an alcohol-related car accident every 50 minutes. Additionally, with the prevalence of drug use, both legal and illegal, other forms of impaired driving have seen a noticeable uptick.

Alcohol greatly impacts your motor skills, vision, judgment, and reaction time. All of which are vital skills for driving. No matter how “focused” a drunk driver tries to be, they are physically unable to react to road hazards in a safe way. It’s no wonder that the leading cause of fatal accidents is drunk driving.

Drowsy Driving

The statistics for drowsy driving can be hazy since there isn’t a way to test for drowsiness in the same way that police can test for the presence of alcohol in the blood. However, even though it is difficult to measure, we know that drowsy driving contributes to thousands of accidents every year.

A 2013 survey of 150,000 adults by the Center for Disease Control found that 4% of drivers reported that they had fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. Of course, those who tend to not get productive sleep, such as those who slept less than 6 hours or who snore a lot, are much more likely to fall asleep at the wheel.


The NHTSA reports that 9,378 people died in 2018 from speeding-related crashes. The faster you are going in your car the longer it takes for you to slow down. Doubling your speed can quadruple your braking distance.

Speed limits exist for a reason. Be careful when you drive and stay at a reasonable speed so that you can stop at a moment’s notice. In the case of inclement weather, it is even more important to slow down since you may not be able to slow down in time. For other winter weather driving tips, check out this blog we wrote on the topic.

Almost all of the common causes of car crashes are preventable. Yet we are seeing a steady global increase in accidents, especially as cars become more common in developing countries. While you as a driver are only one small part of that, if everyone practices safer driving practices, it can make a huge difference. It all starts with one person setting down their phone, driving slower, or not fiddling with their music.

If you or a loved one is ever involved in a car crash, our lawyers at Whiting Hagg & Dorsey, LLP can help you receive the settlement you deserve. Give us a call at (605) 519-6136 or fill out an online contact form.