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The Top 25 Most Common Causes of Car Accidents

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Car accidents are deeply destructive, wreaking havoc on countless lives and leaving behind a trail of devastation. In the blink of an eye, these catastrophic events can cause irreparable damage to individuals, families, and communities.

The Top 25 Most Common Causes of Car Accidents

Beyond the physical toll, car crashes leave emotional scars that can last a lifetime as survivors grapple with the psychological aftermath of the tragedy. Moreover, the financial burden associated with medical expenses, property damage, and legal proceedings adds another layer of destruction, often causing significant financial strain for those involved.

The wide extent of car accidents is clear, as there were 115,938 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania alone in 2022. These crashes claimed the lives of 1,179 people and injured another 67,012 people, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transport.

This article will delve into the 25 most common causes of car accidents and serve as a stark reminder of the importance of responsible driving.

What are the Most Common Causes of Car Accidents?

Car accidents can occur due to various common causes, each posing a unique road risk. Many accidents are avoidable, and some causes are more common than others. Knowing the causes can help prevention. Here are the 25 most common causes of car accidents:

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving, including cellphone use and various other activities, is a significant cause of car accidents. It diverts a driver's attention from driving, leading to delayed reactions and impaired judgment. Even seemingly harmless distractions like eating or adjusting the radio can have severe consequences. To combat this issue, drivers must prioritize their focus on the road and eliminate all distractions to ensure safety for themselves and others.

Driving Under The Influence

Driving under the influence (DUI) poses a serious threat to road safety. It occurs when individuals drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, leading to impaired judgment, coordination, and reaction times. DUI accidents result in severe injuries and fatalities, affecting the impaired driver and innocent individuals on the road. Strict enforcement of laws, public education, and promotion of alternative transportation options are essential to prevent DUI accidents.


Speeding is a common cause of car accidents and a major contributor to road fatalities. It involves driving above the designated speed limits or too fast for the given road conditions. Excessive speed reduces the time for drivers to react to unexpected situations. It increases the distance required to bring the vehicle to a stop, making it more difficult to maintain control. Speeding reduces a driver's ability to respond effectively and amplifies the force of impact in a collision, leading to more severe injuries and damage. 

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving encompasses a range of dangerous behaviors characterized by disregarding traffic laws and the safety of oneself and others on the road. Reckless driving may include excessive speeding, aggressive maneuvers, tailgating, abrupt lane changes, running red lights, or ignoring traffic signals. These reckless actions significantly increase the likelihood of collisions and endanger the lives of everyone involved. Reckless drivers often lack awareness and consideration for other road users, creating a chaotic and unpredictable driving environment.

Poor Weather

Poor weather conditions contribute to many car accidents, presenting formidable challenges for drivers on the road. Adverse weather, such as rain, snow, fog, or ice, creates hazardous driving conditions that reduce visibility, decrease traction, and make it more difficult to control a vehicle. Research shows that more accidents happen in dry conditions, but rain and fog combined produce a large amount of accidents relative to how less frequently those conditions are evident. In poor weather conditions, drivers must exercise caution, adjust their speed to match the road conditions, maintain a safe following distance, and ensure their vehicles are properly equipped for the weather.

Running Red and Yellow Lights

Running red and yellow lights is a dangerous behavior that jeopardizes road safety. Disregarding traffic signals undermines the order and predictability necessary for smooth traffic flow. Both actions significantly increase the risk of collisions. When drivers run red lights, they risk colliding with vehicles lawfully entering the intersection or pedestrians crossing the road. Running yellow lights can also lead to rear-end collisions or side-impact crashes if other drivers assume the vehicle will stop.

Failure to Yield at Stop Signs

Stop signs are placed at intersections to regulate traffic flow and ensure the orderly movement of vehicles. Failing to yield at a stop sign occurs when a driver does not come to a complete stop or neglects to give the right of way to other vehicles or pedestrians as required. This behavior can result in collisions with vehicles passing from different junctions or pedestrians crossing the road. Failure to yield can occur due to inattentiveness, impatience, or a lack of understanding of the rules of the road. 

Unsafe Lane Changes

Changing lanes without properly signaling, checking blind spots, or assessing the distance and speed of other vehicles can lead to collisions. Drivers who make abrupt or careless lane changes can surprise nearby motorists and cause them to take evasive actions, leading to rear-end collisions, sideswipes, or multi-vehicle accidents. Additionally, merging into another lane without sufficient space or during high-traffic conditions can create dangerous situations and impede smooth traffic flow. To prevent accidents caused by unsafe lane changes, drivers must exercise caution, use their signals, and check mirrors and blind spots before maneuvers. 

Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving occurs when drivers operate a vehicle while feeling excessively tired or sleepy. Drowsiness can impair a driver's ability to stay focused, react quickly, and make sound decisions on the road. Drowsy drivers may experience microsleep episodes, briefly falling asleep without realizing it, which can last for seconds or longer. These lapses in attention increase the risk of veering off the road, colliding with other vehicles, or failing to respond to traffic signals. Drowsy driving accidents often result in severe injuries or fatalities, as the impact is typically unexpected, and drivers may be unable to take evasive actions. 


Tailgating is when a driver follows another vehicle too closely, leaving insufficient space between them. Tailgating reduces both drivers' reaction time and stopping distance, increasing the likelihood of rear-end collisions. The driver at the back may not have enough time to brake or change lanes in the event of a sudden stop or an unexpected situation. Tailgating can also create a tense and stressful driving environment, leading to aggressive behaviors and impeding traffic flow. To prevent accidents caused by tailgating, drivers should maintain a safe following distance, typically at least three seconds, to allow for adequate reaction time and accommodate unexpected situations.

Teenage Driving

Teenage driving is a significant factor contributing to car accidents, highlighting the unique challenges and risks young and inexperienced drivers face. Studies show that teenage males and females were the most likely age demographic to be involved in car accidents comparatively to the number of drivers on the road. Teenagers often need more experience, judgment, and maturity to handle complex driving situations effectively. They may underestimate the dangers on the road, engage in risky behaviors, or be easily distracted by peers or technology. Speeding, distracted driving, and impaired driving are common issues among teenage drivers. Additionally, peer pressure and a sense of invincibility can lead to reckless driving behaviors. Statistics show that teenage drivers are more prone to accidents, with a higher likelihood of being involved in fatal crashes than other age groups. 

Road Rage

Road rage refers to aggressive or hostile behaviors drivers display in response to perceived offenses or frustrations on the road. Road rage can manifest in various ways, such as excessive speeding, tailgating, abrupt lane changes, honking, yelling, or confrontations with other drivers. These aggressive actions create a hostile driving environment, impair judgment, and increase the risk of collisions. Road rage incidents can escalate quickly, with drivers becoming increasingly agitated and engaging in dangerous maneuvers that endanger themselves and others. To prevent accidents caused by road rage, drivers need to remain calm, exercise patience, and practice empathy and respect on the road.

Improper Turns

Making turns without following proper procedures, such as failing to use turn signals, misjudging the speed or distance of oncoming vehicles, or executing turns from incorrect lanes, can lead to collisions. Improper turns can cause side-impact accidents, T-bone collisions, or crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists. These incidents often occur at intersections or when changing lanes without sufficient caution. Drivers who make improper turns put themselves at risk and endanger other road users who may have the right of way. To prevent accidents caused by improper turns, drivers must adhere to traffic laws, signal their intentions, and carefully assess traffic conditions before executing a turn.

Night Driving

Night driving presents unique challenges and contributes to car accidents, posing an increased risk to road safety. Reduced visibility, fatigue, and poor depth perception make driving at night more hazardous. Limited lighting conditions make it more difficult to identify hazards, judge distances accurately, and react to sudden changes on the road. Moreover, fatigue tends to be higher during nighttime, impairing concentration and reaction times. Additionally, nighttime driving increases the likelihood of encountering drunk or drowsy drivers, further elevating the risk of accidents. Unsurprisingly, the majority (60%) of alcohol-related car accidents occur between 8pm and 3am. To mitigate the risks of night driving, drivers should ensure their headlights are properly adjusted, maintain a safe speed, and remain alert and focused.

Road Hazards

Road hazards present unexpected dangers that can catch drivers off guard. These hazards encompass many obstacles and conditions that can impair vehicle control and lead to collisions. Some common road hazards include potholes, debris, oil spills, wet or icy surfaces, loose gravel, and poorly marked construction zones. Hitting a pothole or driving over debris can damage tires or cause loss of control, while slippery surfaces increase the risk of skidding and loss of traction. Construction zones with unclear signage may confuse drivers and result in unsafe maneuvers. To prevent accidents caused by road hazards, drivers should remain vigilant, adapt their driving to current road conditions, and reduce speed in hazardous areas. 

Animal Crossings

Animal crossings can increase the probability of car accidents, particularly in areas where wildlife frequently intersects with roads. Animals like deer, bears, or smaller creatures may dart across roads without warning, often during dawn, dusk, or nighttime hours. These sudden encounters can startle drivers, leading to panic braking, swerving, or collisions. Animal crossings are particularly hazardous on rural roads near forests or open spaces with abundant wildlife populations. To reduce the risk of accidents, drivers should pay attention to wildlife warning signs, adhere to speed limits, and be cautious in areas prone to animal crossings. Maintaining control of the vehicle and avoiding abrupt maneuvers when encountering an animal on the road is crucial.

Vehicle Malfunctions

Mechanical failures or malfunctions in a vehicle's components, such as brakes, tires, steering, or electrical systems, can compromise its ability to operate properly. Brake failures may result in the inability to stop or slow down, while tire blowouts can lead to loss of control. Steering malfunctions can make it difficult to steer or navigate the vehicle, while electrical system failures can affect crucial components like lights or indicators. Even minor malfunctions can escalate into major safety concerns while driving. Regular vehicle maintenance, including inspections, servicing, and timely repairs, is essential in identifying and addressing potential malfunctions. Drivers should also pay attention to warning signs, unusual noises, or changes in vehicle performance and take immediate action to resolve any issues.


Potholes are depressions in the road surface that result from pavement deterioration, weather conditions, or heavy traffic. When drivers encounter potholes unexpectedly, it can lead to loss of control, damage to tires, suspension systems, or even accidents. Hitting a pothole can cause a sudden jolt, leading to a loss of vehicle stability or steering control. In some cases, drivers may swerve to avoid a pothole, inadvertently colliding with other vehicles or objects. Potholes are especially dangerous when filled with water, as they can be difficult to see, making it harder for drivers to gauge their depth or severity. Drivers should remain alert, especially in areas prone to poor road conditions, and be prepared to slow down or maneuver around them if safe.

Wrong-Way Driving

Wrong-way driving is when a driver enters a roadway or travels in the opposite direction of the traffic flow. Wrong-way driving can happen due to various factors, such as confusion, impaired judgment, intoxication, or even intentional actions. The consequences of wrong-way driving can be devastating, increasing the likelihood of head-on collisions and high-speed crashes. In many cases, wrong-way drivers are only detected once it's too late for other motorists to react, leaving little time to avoid a collision. It is crucial for drivers to adhere to traffic signs, remain alert, and pay attention to roadway markings. Prompt reporting of wrong-way drivers to authorities is essential for preventing potential accidents and alerting other drivers on the road. 

Street Racing

Street racing is an extremely dangerous and illegal activity that poses a grave risk to road safety. Street racing involves drivers competing in high-speed races on public roads, often in urban areas or late at night when traffic is lighter. Participants in street racing disregard traffic laws, speed limits, and basic safety precautions, putting themselves and innocent bystanders at great risk. The reckless maneuvers, sudden lane changes, and excessive speeds associated with street racing make it highly susceptible to accidents. Collisions can occur when racers lose control of their vehicles, collide with other cars, or strike pedestrians or roadside objects. The consequences of street racing accidents are often severe, leading to injuries or even fatalities. 

Inexperienced Driving

Inexperience can result in a lack of familiarity with traffic rules, poor judgment, and inadequate response to various driving situations. Inexperienced drivers may need help anticipating and reacting to hazards, properly gauging the speed and distance of other vehicles, or executing maneuvers such as merging, turning, or parking safely. Additionally, novice drivers may be more prone to distractions, nervousness, or peer pressure, increasing the risk of accidents. Recent reseach shows that almost ¼ of all accidents in Pennsylvania involved drivers with less than 10 years experience. With time and experience, novice drivers can enhance their abilities, reduce the risk of accidents, and become more confident and responsible.

Age-Related Driving

Certain physical and cognitive changes can affect individuals' driving abilities as they age. Age-related vision changes, such as reduced visual acuity, diminished depth perception, and decreased peripheral vision, can impact a driver's ability to detect hazards and respond quickly. Slower reaction times and decreased flexibility may affect the ability to maneuver the vehicle effectively. Age-related conditions like arthritis, Parkinson's disease, or cognitive impairments can further affect driving skills. It is important for older drivers to regularly assess their abilities, be aware of any limitations, and take necessary precautions. This can include regular vision and hearing checks, adjustments to driving habits or schedules, and considering alternative transportation options when necessary.

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving reduces the ability to react to changing road conditions, increases the likelihood of losing vehicle control, and impairs judgment. To prevent accidents caused by aggressive driving, drivers must practice patience, remain calm, and respect the rights of others on the road. Practicing defensive driving techniques, avoiding confrontations, and reporting aggressive drivers to the authorities can help maintain safer driving conditions for all motorists. 

Driving in Construction Zones

Construction zones typically have reduced speed limits, narrow lanes, detours, and temporary signage, all requiring extra caution and attention from drivers. Failure to adapt to these changing conditions can lead to accidents. Common causes of accidents in construction zones include distracted driving, speeding, abrupt lane changes, and failure to yield to construction vehicles or workers. Additionally, uneven surfaces, loose gravel, or debris in construction zones can affect vehicle stability and control. Drivers must obey posted speed limits, remain focused on the road, and be prepared to react to changing conditions. It is essential to respect construction workers and their equipment by yielding the right of way and being aware of their presence. 

Ignoring Traffic Signs

Traffic signs are essential for regulating traffic flow, providing important information, and ensuring the safety of all road users. Disregarding traffic signs, such as stop signs, yield signs, speed limit signs, or traffic signals, can result in collisions and potentially life-threatening situations. Ignoring stop signs or failing to yield the right of way can lead to T-bone accidents or collisions with pedestrians or cyclists. Ignoring speed limit signs can contribute to excessive speeding, reducing reaction times and increasing the likelihood of accidents.


Where Do Most Car Crashes Happen?

Car accidents occur most frequently in areas with high vehicle concentrations, such as urban areas, intersections, and highways. Rural roads with challenging conditions can also be prone to accidents. However, car accidents, including in residential neighborhoods and parking lots, can happen anywhere. Promoting safe driving practices and obeying traffic laws are crucial for reducing car crashes in all locations.

State highways and local roads made up the significant majority of crashes in Pennsylvania, according to the 2022 Crash Facts and Statistics offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Transport.


What Are The Most Common Injuries from Car Accidents?

Car accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, varying in severity depending on the circumstances of the crash. Some of the most common injuries from car accidents include:

  • Whiplash
  • Fractures (broken bones)
  • Head injuries (including concussions and traumatic brain injuries)
  • Chest and abdominal injuries (such as bruised or broken ribs, internal bleeding, and organ damage)
  • Back and spinal cord injuries (including herniated discs, spinal fractures, and paralysis)
  • Soft tissue injuries (damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc.)

It's important to note that the severity and types of injuries can vary greatly depending on factors such as the speed of the collision, use of seatbelts, airbag deployment, and the position of the occupants in the vehicle. Seeking immediate medical attention after a car accident is crucial, even if injuries are not immediately apparent, as some symptoms may develop or worsen over time.


Tips to Avoid Car Accidents

Here are some tips to help avoid car accidents:

  • Follow traffic laws
  • Maintain a safe following distance
  • Avoid distractions
  • Stay alert and focused
  • Use turn signals
  • Check blind spots
  • Adjust for weather conditions
  • Be mindful of pedestrians and cyclists
  • Avoid aggressive driving
  • Regularly maintain your vehicle

Remember, safe driving is a responsibility that everyone shares. By practicing these tips, you can contribute to a safer road environment for yourself and others.


Meet the Author

Laura Levenberg - Associate Attorney

Laura J. Levenberg is a vaccine injury lawyer at My Vaccine Lawyer. Prior to joining My Vaccine Lawyer, Ms. Levenberg worked as a trial attorney at a litigation firm specializing in personal injury matters, primarily arising from motor vehicle accidents and slip/trip and fall incidents. Laura has successfully represented clients in all stages of litigation, including depositions, negotiations, motion practice, oral arguments, arbitrations, and trial. Laura also serves as a certified arbitrator in Philadelphia County.


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