Jill Kolodner | November 30, 2022 | Car Accidents
According to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Maryland drivers reported 95,507 traffic crashes in one recent year. These crashes injured 36,754 people and killed 573 people.
Car accidents usually have only a few causes. These reported causes will often tell you the type of collision and the nature of the injuries the people involved might suffer. The cause will also determine which driver will bear liability for the resulting deaths, injuries, and property damage.
How Car Accidents Happen
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) groups the critical reasons for car crashes into three categories:
Driver-related causes result from actions or inaction by the driver. The vast majority of car accidents result from driver-related causes. According to the NHTSA, driver actions cause about 94% of crashes.
Vehicles can malfunction or break down while driving. As a result, the driver may lose control of the vehicle and crash. These causes account for about 2% of all car crashes.
The environment can affect both the driver and the vehicle they operate. Causes related to the environment can include:
- Inclement weather
- Damaged or slick road surfaces
- Blind curves and other dangerous road designs
- Malfunctioning signals or damaged signs
- View obstructions and conditions that limit visibility
About 2% of car accidents result from environmental causes.
The 12 Most Common Causes of Car Accidents
Drawing from the NHTSA’s study, the most common causes of car accidents include:
1. Driver Inattention and Distracted Driving
Driver inattention can result from almost any cause, including daydreaming or looking at billboards. Distracted driving is a specific type of driver inattention in which a driver does something that takes their mind, eyes, or hands away from driving.
A common type of accident resulting from distracted driving is a rear-end collision. These crashes happen when a driver collides with another vehicle from behind.
Rear-end collisions can cause injuries such as whiplash, back injuries, and concussions. Fortunately, rear-end crashes rarely cause fatal injuries. According to the National Safety Council, rear-end collisions cause about 37% of injuries but only about 17% of deaths.
2. Inadequate Lookout
Inadequate lookout happens when a driver looks but does not see a road or traffic hazard. In other words, the driver was not distracted, but they still failed to spot something and collided with it.
Inadequate lookout often happens in specific circumstances such as:
Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to collisions caused by inadequate surveillance.
3. Failure to Yield the Right of Way
Intersection crashes often result from a failure to yield the right of way. In these collisions, one of the drivers proceeds out of turn or fails to wait for the intersection to clear before proceeding.
Some situations in which a failure to yield the right of way can cause a collision include:
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Turning left into or in front of an oncoming car
- Turning right into or in front of cross-traffic
- Turning right into a pedestrian in a crosswalk or a cyclist in a bike lane
When a driver fails to yield at an intersection, their vehicle can hit the side of another vehicle crossing their path. They can also get hit from the side by the vehicle that had the right of way. Side-impact collisions are some of the most dangerous accidents, particularly if one car hits the door of the other car.
Speeding means that you:
- Exceeded the speed limit
- Drove too fast for the road, traffic, or weather conditions
Speeding reduces the time you have to react to a road or traffic hazard. Even if you avoid an initial hazard, your excess speed could cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
5. Aggressive Driving
In Maryland, aggressive driving means that the driver committed at least three separate driving violations during a road rage incident. According to MDOT, aggressive driving caused an average of over 4,000 crashes per year between 2016 and 2020.
6. Impaired Driving
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can:
- Impair judgment
- Slow your reflexes
- Make you drowsy or jittery
- Affect your ability to judge speed or distance
The deadliest impaired driving crashes happen when the driver gets confused and drives the wrong way on the road. Head-on crashes are rare but can kill vehicle occupants due to the enormous crash energy involved.
7. Misjudging Distance or Speed
When you drive, you are constantly measuring your speed and the distance to objects and vehicles. You must also judge the speed of other vehicles.
Young and elderly drivers often have difficulty with this skill. Young drivers cause crashes because they lack the experience to measure speed and distance. Senior drivers may suffer from poor vision and have difficulty processing information quickly enough to avoid a crash.
8. Unsafe Lane Changes
Lane change accidents usually happen when drivers:
- Misjudge the gap between cars in an adjacent lane
- Fail to check their blind spots
- Aggressively cut off other drivers
An unsafe lane change can cause a sideswipe collision. Drivers can also move so close to another vehicle that they set up the conditions for a rear-end crash.
9. False Assumptions About Others
Drivers interact with each other constantly. Normally, everyone follows established traffic laws and conventions. But occasionally, a driver violates the conventions.
If other drivers are not prepared for that violation, they can cause a crash. For example, if a driver pulls out in front of you, you might swerve and hit another car.
10. Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving can lead to truck accidents. Commercial drivers have limits on how many hours they can drive. But even when they follow the limits, long shifts and short breaks can result in sleep-deprived truck drivers and drowsy driving crashes.
11. Brake Failures
Brake failures are the most common type of vehicle-related cause of crashes, according to the NHTSA crash causes study. When you lose your brakes, your vehicle essentially becomes a one-ton mass hurtling out of control down the roads.
12. Slick Roads
Slick roads can result from liquid spills, ice, precipitation, or loose debris like sand. Your tires have no traction on slick roads. You may lose the ability to brake. You could also skid sideways.
Causation and Liability: A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Causation often tells you who bears liability for the crash. This allows you to file a claim against the correct party and recover injury compensation after an accident.
Contact an experienced Baltimore car accident lawyer for help understanding your rights and options after a car accident. William G. Kolodner Personal Injury Lawyers offers free consultations.