The Main Causes of Car Accidents: An Extensive Guide

As a parent, one of your top concerns is always keeping your children safe. When they were young, most of your efforts revolved around saving them from themselves. You didn’t want them falling down the stairs, bumping their heads on coffee tables, or sticking objects into power outlets.

Now that your child is growing up, however, it’s time to start talking to them about road safety. If they’re going to start driving soon, they need to know the common causes of car accidents. This will not only keep them vigilant on the road, but it will also prevent them from making common driving mistakes that can have life-altering consequences.

We’re here to help you cover all the bases. Keep reading for an extensive guide on the most common auto accident causes.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is, perhaps, one of the most common collective causes of car accidents. In fact, over 3,000 fatal accidents are caused by distracted driving each year.

While most people immediately think of cell phones, distracted driving takes many forms. It can be anything from talking to your passenger to staring out the window at something on the side of the road.

Regardless, you must keep your full attention on the road at all times while operating a vehicle. A split-second distraction can have devastating results. Here are the most common examples of distracted driving.

Cell Phones

Smartphones have changed everything about the way we live our lives. Studies show that 97% of Americans own cell phones, the majority of which are smartphones. We use them for everything from texting to checking our social media pages.

Unfortunately, this quickly evolved to doing these things while driving. Not long after learning how to drive, it becomes second nature to most of us. This leads to overconfidence behind the wheel, where many people think it’s okay to use their phones.

Eating and Drinking

Other common causes of car accidents include eating and drinking while driving. You might eat breakfast on your way to work to save time or grab a bite to go while on a road trip. Regardless, it’s never recommended to eat and drink while driving.

If you drop a piece of food or your drink, reaching down to grab it can easily cause an accident. Taking your eyes off the road or accidentally swerving into traffic is hardly worth the food or drink you’re consuming.


As noted above, keeping your children safe is likely the most important responsibility resting on your shoulders. However, the children we try to keep safe can be the very thing that causes an accident.

For example, if your child is throwing a tantrum or otherwise being unruly, looking back at them while driving can result in an accident. When you take your eyes off the road, the car in front of you could stop, an animal could cross in front of you, the light could turn red, etc.


Pets can be equally distracting, if not more so. You can’t always avoid having your pet in the car, and some people really enjoy it.

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However, you must ensure the animal is secured and well-behaved. Jumping up on your lap or running around from seat to seat could create enough of a distraction that it could cause an accident.


Some auto accident cases are due to multitasking on the road. While this certainly includes using your phone or eating food, let’s take a look at some of the other common forms of multitasking behind the wheel.

Surprisingly, it’s not uncommon to see people on their way to work putting their makeup on while driving. This is dangerous for countless reasons.

You might also see someone reading a map, reading a book, looking at a magazine, and more. It may sound absurd, but it happens all the time.

Other forms of multitasking include:

  • Using the mirror to check your face and hair
  • Grabbing something out of your purse or center console (mints, gum, etc.)
  • Changing the music
  • Resetting the clock
  • Taking off a coat or jacket
  • Etc.

While you might feel like something “has to get done” while you’re driving, at least wait until you’ve come to a stoplight or stop sign. Ideally, wait until you’re parked.

Zoning Out

Some of the most common causes of car accidents are zoning out or getting lost in thought. Whether you’re thinking about what happened at work, what you’re going to eat for dinner, or a serious conversation you need to have with someone, zoning out takes your attention off the road.

You probably do this all the time without realizing it. For example, have you ever arrived home or to work but struggle to recall the details of the drive over?

Roadside Distractions

Finally, car accident causes often include roadside distractions. This could be anything from an animal on the side of the road or a recent car accident.

It’s hard not to let our curiosity get the better of us. However, taking your eyes off the road in front of you is dangerous.

Additionally, if you’re distracted by something on the side of the road, odds are other drivers are too. They might be equally distracted, which increases the odds of being in an accident even more.

Driver Error

Now, let’s move on to some other types of auto accident causes. Let’s talk about driver error outside of being distracted. This topic covers a wide variety of ways in which accidents can be caused by the driver.

For example, if you’re unfamiliar with an area, you might struggle to find your destination. As you’re looking around for specific buildings or eying street signs, you might back into the car in front of you, drive the wrong way down a one-way street, etc.

Other driver errors include:

  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Failing to yield
  • Merging into a lane without checking your blindspot
  • Following the car ahead too closely
  • Not using turn signals to warn other drivers of your intention to brake and turn
  • And more

Nobody is a perfect driver. However, the more caution and vigilance you use on the road, the less like you are to end up in a car accident.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving while intoxicated on any level is never a good idea. Substances that can alter your mind will impact your reaction time, your decision-making skills, your awareness, and your overall ability to operate a vehicle. As such, it’s illegal to drive while under the influence.

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Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’re good to drive. This is an assumption many people end up regretting.

And if you’re recovering after a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you have grounds to pursue damages. Reach out to an auto accident attorney as soon as possible to talk about your case. They can assist you in handling a car accident, identifying your damages, and calculating the value of your claim.

Uncontrolled Intersections

Uncontrolled intersections are common causes of car accidents that can also fall under driver error. Uncontrolled intersections are common in residential neighborhoods and less busy areas of town. At these junctions, drivers are expected to slow down, check for traffic, and yield to the driver on the right.

However, it’s not uncommon for accidents to occur here for several reasons. It could be because:

  • The driver assumes the intersecting road has stop signs
  • The driver uses the route frequently and is overconfident
  • The driver doesn’t look for crossing traffic
  • Etc.

After a car accident at an uncontrolled intersection, it can be difficult to determine who was at fault. For example, someone may have failed to yield, but the other driver could have been speeding.

Road and Weather Conditions

Auto accident causes are frequently based on inclement weather and unforgiving road conditions. If you live in an area prone to snow and ice, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

In areas that experience freezing temperatures, ice will form on the road, making it difficult to stop, steer, and control the vehicle. Heavy snowfall can have the same effects.

Inclement weather can also cause a disruption in your visibility. Heavy rainfall and snowfall can completely obscure your vision. However, high winds with dust and fog can also limit your ability to see clearly while driving.

Poor Visibility

Poor visibility is often the culprit behind car accidents causes. However, it doesn’t always have to be related to the weather.

For example, intersections have poor visibility due to trees, bushes, signs, and other objects. It can be difficult to gauge the right time to pull out across one or more lanes of traffic.

Drivers should be especially cautious during sunsets and sunrises. While the sun is low, it has a tendency to blind drivers. Not only is the low sun incredibly bright, but it can highlight the dirt, dust, and film on your windshield, making it difficult to see through.

Some roads are known for car accidents during these times. If your kids need to cross that path while walking to school, make sure they’re using crosswalks and crossing at intersections with stoplights.

Speeding and Reckless Driving

Part of keeping your children safe means teaching them how not to drive. When teenagers get their driver’s licenses for the first time, they can’t help but push the limits. However, speeding and driving recklessly are common car accident causes.

Make sure they understand that they need to drive safely in all circumstances. Showing off for their friends and joy-riding can be exceptionally dangerous.

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Reckless driving also includes:

  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Not accounting for weather conditions
  • Accelerating quickly
  • Stopping at the last minute
  • Following the car ahead too closely
  • Not using turn signals
  • Not coming to a complete stop at stop signs
  • And more

And remember, it’s just as important to learn how to keep an eye out for reckless drivers as it is to avoid becoming one.

Animals on the Roadway

Unfortunately, no matter how many precautions you take or how much experience you have driving, you can’t always control the circumstances around you. For this reason, animals crossing the road will always be one of the most common causes of car accidents.

If you live in a neighborhood or in the city, it’s dogs and cats you need to look out for. However, deer are the most frequently hit animals on the road. Large animals like these have the potential to destroy your vehicle can cause significant injuries.

Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel

We all know that driving while intoxicated is a major no-no. However, driving while tired can be equally dangerous.

Whether you’re driving across the country or coming home after working the night shift, it’s easy to get drowsy while operating a vehicle. This is especially true on highways, interstates, and other long, straight roadways.

If you’re falling asleep, don’t risk causing an accident. Instead:

  • Find a place to pull over and get a quick nap
  • Drink coffee or an energy drink
  • Roll the windows down
  • Blast some music
  • Etc.

As a victim, handling a car accident like this can be difficult. Obviously, the driver didn’t mean to cause harm, but you shouldn’t have to pay for medical bills or repairs since the accident was their fault. If you were involved in an accident caused by a motorist who fell asleep behind the wheel, contact a car accident attorney for legal guidance.

Mechanical Failure and Vehicle Malfunctions

Finally, some causes of car accidents include vehicle malfunctions and failures. These are rare but quite possible.

For example, if a motorist’s brake lights don’t work, you may not be able to see them stopping ahead of you. You might also have failing brakes, which will make it difficult to stop in a timely manner. Other vehicle malfunctions that cause accidents include:

  • Nonfunctioning windshield wipers
  • Broken turn signals
  • Loss of power steering
  • Blown tires
  • Malfunctioning anti-lock brakes
  • And more

Proper car maintenance and immediate repairs are the best things you can do to prevent causing accidents like these.

Trying to Avoid the Most Common Causes of Car Accidents?

If you want to avoid the most common causes of car accidents, you must first learn what they are. We hope our guide provides help (and safety) for you and your family. Stay vigilant, stay safe, and avoid making these common mistakes.

And if you’re looking for more parenting advice, you’re in the right place. Stick around for a while and check out some of our other blog articles to find more excellent tips for raising children, keeping up your home, and being a fantastic parent.