16 Common Causes of Car Accidents

Some of the most common car accident causes include human error, bad weather, and poor road conditions.
Written by Hillary Kobayashi
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Most car accidents in the United States are the result of human error such as speeding, tailgating, and distracted driving — but severe weather and poor road conditions are also common car accident causes, too.
No matter the cause of an accident, having good
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If you’re wondering about some of the most common car accident causes, read on.
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Driving while distracted

Distracted driving is one of the top causes of car accidents. Your brain simply cannot focus on safe driving while you’re fiddling around with another task.
Some of the most common distractions that lead to accidents include eating, texting, talking, reading, watching a video, and grooming or applying makeup.

Driving under the influence of alcohol

According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
, an average of 29 people die every day due to drunk driving.
Drunk driving accidents are among the most dangerous and deadly. If you’ve had a drink, pass the keys over to a designated driver or call a taxi.

Driving too fast

Speeding increases your chances of getting into a dangerous wreck — and a
ticket for speeding will see your insurance rates rise
Driving too fast puts your life, and the lives of others, at risk. Leave a bit earlier and try to stick to the speed limit.
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Driving recklessly

It should go without saying that aggressive and erratic driving can lead to a car accident. Speeding, swerving in out of lanes, and making sharp and fast turns can bring harm to other drivers and pedestrians.
If you’re caught driving aggressively, you’ll face harsh penalties and your insurance will likely increase significantly.
Key Takeaway Aggressive driving that shows disregard for the safety of others is considered reckless.

Driving in the rain

Slippery roads, poor vision, and reflecting lights make it difficult to drive safely. Try to avoid driving in the rain whenever possible.
Fog and wind may also contribute to dangerous driving conditions.

Driving through red lights

Running a red light or a stop sign is a good way to cause an accident. Red means stop.
Even if you think you can make it through the yellow light, it’s not worth the risk. Taking an extra minute to stop won’t kill you, but running that red just might.
MORE: How to get car insurance with a bad driving record

Driving at night

Decreased visibility can make driving at night riskier for drivers. Keep alert and use your brights on dark roads if you need them (but make sure to look out for other drivers).

Driving a defective car

Not all accidents are caused by human error — sometimes car problems can lead to an accident. You can help prevent incidents by taking your car in for
regular maintenance
, replacing tires in poor condition, and immediately having any concerns looked at by a reputable mechanic.

Driving too close to other cars

Tailgating the car in front of you is dangerous, no matter how slowly they’re driving. Generally speaking, you should maintain about three seconds of distance between you and the car in front. This gives you enough time to react if they brake suddenly.
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Driving the wrong direction

Driving downtown with a bunch of one-way streets can be confusing — we hear you. But making a wrong turn on a one-way street can cause an accident.
If you’re driving in an area with one-way streets, keep a close eye on traffic signs, unusual on-ramps, and other irregularities.

Driving teenagers

Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for teens in the US, and it’s mainly due to inexperience. Teens are more likely to speed and drive while distracted — a potentially deadly combination.
Having your teen take a defensive driving course can help underscore the importance of safe driving (and bonus, it may lower their insurance rate, too!).
Key Takeaway Teenagers are three times more likely than drivers over the age of 20 to get into an accident.

Driving under the influence of drugs

Whether legal or illegal, over-the-counter or prescription, drugs impact your driving ability. Review the side effects of your medication and never drive under the influence of a drug that dulls your senses, slows response time, or makes you sleepy.

Driving through a pothole

Believe it or not, a simple pothole can cause big problems. If you see a pothole up ahead, check for other cars before switching lanes. Swerving to avoid a pothole could lead to an accident.

Driving with a flat

Flat tires or tire blowouts can be minor inconveniences or major events. If you’re driving at a high speed, a tire blowing could pull you into the guardrail or another vehicle.
Keep calm and pull over
when it’s safe. If you’re struggling to change or repair a tire by yourself, call for help.

Driving into an animal

Hitting a large animal like a deer can be frightening and dangerous — and might even total your car. Keep an eye out for animal crossing signs and be especially cautious around heavily forested and woody areas.

Driving through a construction site

Construction zones can cause accidents due to their confusing and irregular nature. For the safety of construction workers, other drivers, and yourself, stick to the construction zone speed limit and watch for posted signage when driving through these areas.

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What is the most common cause of car accidents?

Distracted driving is responsible for most accidents. Keep your eyes on the road at all times.

Where do a large percentage of accidents occur?

About 40% of accidents occur at intersections. Always come to a complete stop at stop signs and don’t even think about running a red — no matter how much of a hurry you’re in.

What are some common causes of car accidents that are not driver error?

While a vast majority of car accidents are caused by human error, this is not always the case. Bad weather, rough road conditions, vehicle defects, and animal crossings are also common culprits.

How deadly are car accidents?

Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
, an estimated 38,680 people died in car accidents in 2020.
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