What Are the Main Causes of Car Accidents?

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the main causes of car accidents include vehicle, driver, environmental and unknown factors. Drivers account for about 94 percent of traffic accidents. The NHTSA’s Crash Causation Survey states vehicle, environmental, and unknown factors are each about two percent of the total critical reasons that are identified as collision causes.

In this article, we’ll cover some important information about the main causes of car accidents including:

Recent NHTSA Crash Statistics



The most recent NHTSA data from 2019 indicates that over 70% of crashes for the year were due to vehicle collisions. Rear end and collisions with moving vehicles at an angle account for over 54% of all crashes.

14% of car accidents caused by a driver hitting a fixed object such as:

  • Pole or Post
  • Culvert, Curb or Ditch
  • Shrubbery or Tree
  • Guard Rail
  • Embankment
  • Bridge
  • Other or Unknown

Almost 13% of car accidents occur when a driver struck a non-fixed object including:

  • Parked Motor Vehicles
  • Animals
  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Train
  • Other/Unknown

When a Driver Is the Critical Reason That Caused the Crash

Have you been injured in an accident? Get help from the experienced lawyers at The Kryder Law Group.

Driver behavior is the leading cause of car accidents. The NHTSA data breaks driver errors down into subgroups that further describe the type of driver error. This includes mistakes of recognition, decisions, driver performance, or other errors.

Recognition Mistakes

These mistakes may occur because of distracted drivers being affected by distractions inside and outside of the vehicle, the driver’s lack of attention to their environment and other drivers, and failure to keep a proper lookout. Distracted driving accidents and other recognition mistakes represent more than 40 percent of operator errors that result in car accidents.

Decision Errors

These mistakes account for about one-third of all driver-related causes of crashes. This category includes things like driving over the speed limit, tailgating, reckless driving, incorrectly judging the speed of other cars, disregarding traffic signals, red lights and stop signs, aggressive driving, wrong way driving, not driving in the proper lane, disregarding street signs warning of issue ahead, or not leaving enough space the driver needs to complete an action (e.g., passing another vehicle, unsafe lane changes).

Mistakes Surrounding the Driver’s Performance

Overreacting like steering too sharply and failing to keep the vehicle in control and in the correct direction are examples of performance errors. These types of mistakes from a driver’s ability cause more than 10 percent of traffic accidents.

Other Errors Not Related to Performance

Most of these mistakes involve driver fatigue, drowsy driving, and falling asleep behind the wheel. About seven percent of all driver-associated causes fall into this group.

Additional, Unspecified Reasons

Unknown or unspecified reasons cause eight percent of all driver-caused accidents.

If you could somehow remove all of these driver mistakes, you could eliminate all but six percent of car accidents. All these types of errors have the potential to cause a serious accident, particularly distracted driving, reckless drivers, drunk driving, and drugged driving.

How Issues With the Vehicle Can Cause or Contribute to Collisions

Even though problems with the vehicle only cause about two percent of all motor vehicle accidents, this group contains four distinct subcategories:

  • Unspecified vehicle issues
  • Tires and wheels
  • Issues with brakes
  • Problems with the engine, suspension, transmission, or steering of the car

The NHTSA cautions that these groups only include vehicle problems that are visible from the exterior of the vehicle. Problems with a component inside the car or not readily seen from the outside could be responsible for additional accidents.

Causation Factors Related to the Environment in Vehicle Accidents

The NHTSA states that the environment is a critical reason for car accidents in only about two percent of all crashes. The top environmental factors leading to collisions are slick roads (50 percent) and glare (17 percent).

Other Environmental Factors

Additional environmental factors that get blamed for car accidents include:

  • Obstructed view
  • Poor weather conditions like snow, rain, and fog
  • Other weather situations
  • The design of the road, such as improper grading or banking for a curve in the road
  • Signals and traffic signs malfunctioning or not being present

The NHTSA warns that these factors do not necessarily represent the main causes of a car accident because sometimes the records include environmental and non-environmental reasons for crashes, like driver error.

Why Some Causes of Crashes Are Unknown

The Crash Causation Survey report also states that in about two percent of all investigated road accidents, officials cannot determine the cause. While this might sound surprising, the statement makes sense when you dig a little deeper.

As an example, say that a deputy sheriff discovered a mangled car with a deceased person inside or with no driver or passenger present at the scene. If the physical evidence does not reveal what led to the accident, and there are no eyewitnesses, the officer might have to select “unknown” as the critical reason for the incident.

More Information Might Be Needed

In other cases, investigators might not have all the information they need to make a determination about what happened. A car could have hit a deer or another animal, for instance, and while there might be evidence at the scene of the accident, it’s difficult to know for certain what caused the damage. In these situations, officials might choose “unknown” or “undetermined” as the primary reason for the crash.

Hit-and-Run Situations

In other situations, one motorist in an accident might flee the scene. It then becomes only the word of the remaining motorist(s) involved in the accident when fleeing drivers run and aren’t available to help determine the cause. In these cases, you’ll need a hit-and-run attorney on your side to help protect your rights as a victim.

The Bottom Line on Car Accident Causes

While driver-related mistakes are the number one cause of car accidents, there are a variety of other causes that can contribute to an accident. Vehicle problems, environmental factors, and unknown or unspecified reasons can all lead to collisions. It’s important to be aware of these various factors in order to stay safe on the road.

And if you do find yourself injured in a car accident, be sure to speak to an experienced lawyer about your case. They can help you understand your rights and what steps you need to take next.

When you’ve been injured in a car accident that was someone else’s fault, you need a knowledgeable car accident attorney on your side. They can help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

How a Lawyer Can Help You With Your Car Accident Injury Claim

No matter the cause of your accident, it is important that the responsible party be held accountable. If you have been seriously injured in a car accident, speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to find out what your legal options are.

There are many things that can cause a car accident. Some are driver-related, such as drunk driving, reckless driving, distracted driving, and road rage. Other causes of car accidents include vehicle-related problems and environmental conditions.

However, in many cases the specific cause of a car accident is unknown. If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to find out what your legal options are. The Kryder Law Group can help you get the compensation you deserve.

At the Kryder Law Group, our clients are able to concentrate on recovering from their injuries since we handle all of their legal concerns. They do not have to stress about dealing with the at-fault driver’s liability insurance carrier while trying to recuperate from their injuries. We understand the difficult road ahead and are here to help you every step of the way.

Get a Free Consultation Today

The Kryder Law Group, focuses on personal injury cases. We take great pride in helping people who get hurt because of someone else’s carelessness. Whether you encountered a distracted driver, drunk drivers, an inexperienced young driver, or someone exceeding posted speed limits, we’re here to help. If you got injured in a car accident in Chicago or the surrounding areas, you might be eligible for compensation.

Our team of car accident lawyers can help you go after the money damages that you are entitled to. Call today for a free consultation to discuss the value of your case.

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