What are the Most Common Causes of Car Crashes?

There are millions of motor vehicle accidents in the United States each year, and a large number of them result in moderate to severe injuries, with many fatalities as well. South Carolina averages 20.5 deaths per hundred thousand people due to car crashes, according to a 2018 report by WIS News 10 Columbia. This gives the Palmetto State the unenviable distinction of being the third deadliest state in the nation for fatal car crashes.

There are numerous reasons why auto accidents occur, and according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 94% and 96% of all motor vehicle crashes are caused by some type of human error. The remaining 4% to 6% would be due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, such as bad weather or a large animal jumping in front of an oncoming vehicle.

Here are some of the most common causes of vehicle crashes that result from human error:

Distracted Driving

In recent years, distractions have become one of the leading causes of auto accidents. Motorists have always had distractions, some of the most common being food and drink, tuning the dial on the radio, billboards that catch their attention for a little too long, or even other passengers that pull their focus away from the road.

Technological breakthroughs, although they are a blessing to our lives in many ways, have brought distracted driving to a whole new level. Texting while driving and other types of electronic activity distract drivers visually, manually, and cognitively. And the end result is that they are focused completely on what is happening with their phone. This makes it far more likely that they will be involved in a crash because they did not notice a potential hazard and/or they did not react to it in time.


Speeding is another one of the leading causes of auto accidents. Most drivers have gone over the speed limit on occasion, and with some drivers, this behavior is habitual. Speed limits are there for a reason, and the faster the vehicle travels, the more difficult it is for a driver to react to adverse situations that may arise. And because crashes caused by speeding typically happen at high speeds, the force and impact of the collision increases the likelihood of serious injuries and fatalities.

Aggressive/Reckless Driving

Driving aggressively or recklessly is another behavior that heightens the risk of a car crash. Excessive speeding is one example of this, and others include tailgating, weaving back and forth between lanes or over the center line, illegal and/or dangerous passing maneuvers, running stop signs and red lights, illegal turns, street racing, and many others.

Drunk Driving

Despite decades of public relations campaigns from organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.), far too many people still make the horrible and often fateful decision to get behind the wheel after having too much drink. Drunk driving causes approximately 10,000 traffic-related fatalities each year, and this behavior is especially common at night, on weekends, and during major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and the 4th of July.

Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving does not get nearly as much attention as distracted driving, reckless driving, or drunk driving. This could be because driving while drowsy or fatigued is not illegal, and because it is much harder to accurately estimate the number of accidents that are caused by a drowsy driver.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated one out of every 25 adult drivers report having fallen asleep at the wheel within the past 30 days. And although the official NHTSA data shows only around 800 drowsy driving-related fatalities per year, the CDC says that these numbers are underestimated, and the actual number of fatalities is closer to 6,000. The reason for the discrepancy is that drowsiness is often not listed as a cause of accident on official police reports.

Third Parties

Third parties who are not directly involved are a contributing factor in some motor vehicle accidents. For example, some accidents occur because of poorly maintained roads with dangerous conditions such as potholes and large cracks in the pavement. Negligent maintenance is another common problem, particularly with commercial trucks and fleet vehicles that log a large number of miles on a regular basis. Finally, car crashes may be caused by faulty or defective vehicle parts. Examples include brake line failures, computer dashboard malfunctions, and tire blowouts.

Injured in Car Crash in South Carolina? Contact a Skilled and Knowledgeable Auto Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one suffered injury in a motor vehicle accident in South Carolina, you need strong legal counsel in your corner fighting hard to recover the full and fair compensation you deserve. At Peake & Fowler, we are ready to go to work for you! To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call us today at 803-788-4370. You may also message us online or stop by our Columbia, SC office in person at your convenience.