Everything from our driving behavior to the actions of other drivers and road conditions can play a role in ensuring a safe trip from Point A to Point B. Unfortunately, a car accident can happen at any time and change our lives instantly. Understanding the main causes of car accidents is crucial. Why? Because being informed can help prevent them. Below, our Los Angeles auto accident lawyers explore the four leading causes of accidents and how to help avoid them.

1. Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is driving while engaging in any activity or behavior that diverts the driver’s attention from the road. These distractions can interfere with a driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle, leading to an increased risk of car accidents and injuries. Distractions can be visual, manual, or cognitive.

What Are The 4 Main Causes of Car Accidents?

Visual distractions include anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road. Examples of visual distractions include, but are not limited to:

  • Checking your GPS or navigation system
  • Searching for items in your vehicle
  • Looking at a passenger
  • Looking at things outside, like an accident or billboard

Man looking at his side window while driving a car

Manual distractions include any activity that removes your hands from the steering wheel. Examples of manual distractions include, but are not limited to:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the radio, climate controls, or other vehicle settings
  • Fixing your hair or doing your makeup
  • Smoking

Cognitive distractions are tasks that take your mind off driving. Examples of cognitive distractions include, but are not limited to:

  • Daydreaming or being lost in thought
  • Engaging in conversations, whether with passengers or over the phone
  • Listening to a podcast or audiobook

Some activities, such as texting and driving, are especially dangerous because they combine all three types of distracted driving. When you text, your eyes are on your phone, your hands are off the wheel, and your mind is off driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at 55 miles per hour, sending or reading a text is like covering the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Help to avoid a car accident by putting away your phone and keeping your attention on the road. Keep it out of reach or on “Do Not Disturb” while driving.

Other ways to avoid being a distracted driver include planning your route and setting your vehicle’s controls before you start driving. Pull over in a safe place if you need to eat, drink, find something in your car, or address other tasks. If you are a passenger, speak up if you notice that your driver is distracted.

2. Speeding

Speeding refers to driving above the designated speed limit or driving too fast for current weather or road conditions, even if your speed is below the set speed limit. According to the NHTSA, speeding contributed to 29 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2021.

Speeding is illegal and dangerous for many reasons, including, but not limited to:Blue car being driven on a highway with a blurry background

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  • Reduced reaction time. Higher speeds mean less time to react to unexpected events or dangers on the road. A driver may not have enough time or distance to stop or avoid sudden obstacles.
  • Less vehicle control. Vehicles are more difficult to control at excessive speeds, especially when avoiding obstacles, navigating turns, or driving in adverse weather conditions like rain or snow.
  • Greater potential injury. Car accidents caused by speeding are likely to result in more severe injuries or fatalities. Speeding reduces the effectiveness of seatbelts and airbags.

Be conscious of posted speed limits and understand they are there for safety reasons. Regularly check your speedometer to be aware of your current speed. Using cruise control on highways can help you maintain a steady speed. Additionally, being mindful of time management and leaving early for appointments can reduce the urge to speed due to time pressures.

3. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

Driving under the influence (DUI) refers to operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications. It is illegal, carries heavy penalties, and involves substantial risks.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can compromise a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Here is how:

  • Impaired judgment. Alcohol and drugs can cloud a driver’s judgment, affecting their ability to assess risks accurately, gauge distances, and anticipate the actions of other road users.
  • Slowed reaction time. Being under the influence can reduce a driver’s reaction time. A slight delay in responding to a sudden obstacle or situation can mean the difference between a near-miss and a devastating car accident.
  • Decreased coordination. Intoxication often results in compromised motor skills. Symptoms such as slurred speech, unstable movement, and difficulties focusing can significantly hinder one’s ability to drive safely.
  • Vision and perception issues. Driving under the influence can lead to vision problems, including blurred or double vision. It can also disrupt a driver’s capacity to judge distances and recognize signals or potential hazards.

Always plan a safe way home ahead of when you intend to drink or use drugs. Designate a sober driver, use public transportation, arrange a taxi or rideshare service, or call a friend or family member. If you know someone else has been drinking or is under the influence of drugs, do not let them drive. Help them arrange a safe way home instead.

4. Reckless Driving

California defines reckless driving as driving “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Reckless drivers pose risks to themselves, passengers, and other road users.

Reckless driving can encompass a wide range of actions and behaviors. Some examples of reckless driving may include the following:

  • Excessive speeding
  • Drunk driving
  • Tailgating or following another vehicle too closely
  • Antagonizing other drivers and road rage behavior
  • Street racing
  • Weaving through traffic and unsafe lane changes
  • Ignoring traffic signs and signals, like blatantly running a red light

Always adhere to traffic rules, maintain a safe following distance, and avoid making impulsive decisions, like weaving through lanes or tailgating. Being a predictable driver protects you and other motorists from potential car accidents.Man with a passenger driving a car on a rainy day

Other Causes of Car Accidents Due to Driver Error

While our Los Angeles car accident attorneys have discussed the top four common driver errors that can lead to accidents, many driving behaviors can cause accidents. A few more car accident causes due to driver error include, but are not limited to:

  • Aggressive driving. Aggressive driving is a form of reckless driving. Examples include tailgating, speeding, and weaving through traffic. This behavior increases the chances of car accidents by reducing reaction times and compromising safe following distances.
  • Drowsy driving. Driving while tired can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Driver fatigue slows reaction time, hampers decision-making, and can even lead to microsleeps, causing the motorist to lose control of the vehicle.
  • Driving at night. Driving at night can be dangerous, with reduced visibility and the potential for glare from oncoming headlights making it harder to perceive and react to obstacles. Additionally, drivers are more likely to be tired at night, which can affect a driver’s focus and reaction time. It can also result in falling asleep behind the wheel.
  • Ignoring traffic signals. Ignoring signs and signals disrupts the flow and order of traffic, leading to unpredictable driving behaviors. When drivers ignore red lights or stop signs, they increase the risk of crashing with vehicles that have the right of way.
  • Driving the wrong way. Whether due to confusion, inattention, or impairment, driving against traffic is extremely dangerous and can result in head-on collisions. Going the wrong way gives you and other motorists little time to react to each other.

Common Causes of Car Accidents Unrelated to Human Error

While driver negligence is the cause of many accidents, in some cases, the cause is unrelated to human error. Traffic accidents are not always the result of driver error. Several external factors can contribute to a car accident. Here are some common causes of car accidents unrelated to human error:

Weather Conditions

Rain, wind, fog, and other adverse weather conditions can reduce a motorist’s visibility and vehicle control. These conditions make it challenging for drivers to see other vehicles, oncoming road hazards, and other road users like bicyclists. As a result, drivers should use greater caution, longer following distances, and slower speeds to help avoid car accidents in the rain and other weather conditions.

Road Conditions

Adverse road conditions like potholes, uneven pavement, lack of signage, and debris can cause traffic accidents. When roads are not in good condition, drivers may face unexpected obstacles, vehicle damage like tire blowouts, and loss of control. Without proper signage, drivers may fail to adhere to traffic rules, leading to unpredictability on the road.

Vehicle Defects

Vehicle defects in the braking system, tires, steering, or other critical components can compromise a vehicle’s safe operation. Malfunctions can cause sudden and unexpected issues, leaving motorists little time to react and increasing the likelihood of accidents. When car accidents occur, a vehicle or parts manufacturer may be liable for the accident.

Regular vehicle maintenance and promptly addressing recalls can help mitigate these risks. If you notice any issues with your vehicle, you should get it checked as soon as possible.

Allen Vaysberg Los Angeles Auto Accident Lawyer

Schedule a Free Case Review With Our Los Angeles Car Accident Attorneys

Have you suffered injuries in a serious accident in Los Angeles or Southern California? When car accidents happen, you may be able to recover financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.

At the Law Offices of Steers & Associates, as seen with our case results, we have recovered millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts on behalf of accident victims. Schedule your free consultation to discuss your potential legal options and how we may be able to help you. Call us at (800) 824-5416 or contact us online to get started.