7 Causes of Car Accidents: Knowing Them Can Help Keep You Safe
No one expects to be involved in a car crash In addition to physical injuries and property loss, an automobile accident can leave a victim and often his or her entire family, struggling with unexpected and potentially lifelong financial, professional, and social difficulties. But what are the causes of car accidents and what can we learn from them?
A lawyer can help car accident victims get their lives back to normal after a wreck throws them off track. If you suffered harm in a car accident caused by someone else’s wrongful or careless actions, then you may have a right to financial compensation from those who caused you harm. Seeking the advice of an experienced car accident attorney can help.
Of course, better yet you will never have to speak with an attorney about a car accident. One way to avoid accidents is to understand how they happen. Below, we will cover some of the most common causes of car accidents in the Fort Myers area.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, our Fort Myers auto incident lawyers can help. Don’t hesitate, please contact us right away so we can discuss your best options.
Some Car Accident Causes Are Predictable, Some Are Preventable, and Some Are Unavoidable
Motor vehicle accidents occur every day on the southern Gulf Coast. Lee County alone reports 5,951 accidents in the first half of 2019. What causes them? Here are some of the most common culprits.
1. Human Errors Cause Car Accidents
Careless drivers have been among the top causes of car accidents since cars were invented. The first reported car accident happened in 1896 when a driver in New York hit a bicyclist. One thing that hasn’t changed in more the century is that people make mistakes. Although we all are able to control our own actions, we have no control over the unpredictable, and sometimes careless, actions of the drivers with whom we share the road.
2. Medical Conditions and Medication Side Effects Can Cause Accidents
There are many medical conditions that can make a driver more likely to cause an automobile accident. They include:
- Visual impairments
- Seizure disorders
- Cardiac conditions
- Parkinson’s disease
The percentage of drivers struggling with these conditions will increase as the Baby Boom generation continues to age. By 2030, 25 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. About 80 percent of all persons over age 65 have at least one chronic condition and 50 percent have two.
With rising medical conditions comes a driving population that is increasingly medicated. Today’s miracle drugs prolong life and health, and that’s obviously a very good thing. But many drugs have unpredictable side effects, particularly when taken with a cocktail of multiple other drugs for a variety of ailments. The result: Florida drivers whose medications make it difficult to see, making good decisions, or stay awake behind the wheel.
Of course, every driver has to take responsibility for their own actions behind the wheel, and that includes driving while impaired by medication side effects. Sometimes, however, those side effects catch drivers off-guard, particularly when they begin taking a new medication. When doctors, pharmacists, and drug-makers fail to warn Floridians about the potential side effects of medications, they may face legal liability in an accident caused by those side effects.
3. Unfamiliarity with the Area Can Cause Auto Accidents
The beaches and ballparks of Fort Myers and Sanibel lure tourists from all over the country. That’s a good thing, considering how they benefit the local economy. But tourism comes with downsides, too. One of those is that a significant proportion of drivers in Lee County lack familiarity with our roads, traffic patterns, and speed limits. Drivers who lack familiarity also tend to lack confidence. They can easily get distracted and make unpredictable driving decisions, increasing accident risk.
Drivers visiting a new place can reduce their accident risk with some simple preparation. Looking at a map of your route before you head out on the road primes your brain to make good decisions. Programming a GPS with your destination before starting out, and mounting it at or near eye level so that you do not need to turn your head to see it, can help you get to where you’re going safely and without taking your eyes off the road. Finally, remember you can always stop and ask for directions—that sounds radical in this age of screens, but it’s also effective!
4. Road Conditions Definitely Cause Car Accidents
Drivers don’t control road conditions, at least not directly. That’s why it’s important to drive defensively and at a safe speed (which might sometimes need to be lower than the speed limit). Here on the Gulf Coast, afternoon storms can spin up quickly, taking drivers off guard. But that’s just one of the many hazards drivers need to contend with. Some other road conditions that can cause accidents if drivers aren’t careful include:
- Sunshine glare
- Poor roadway designs
- Broken or damaged signs or signals
- Debris on the road
Although no one controls the weather, road engineers and maintenance crews do have some influence over how safe the road is. If the failure to design, build, or maintain a road that’s safe for Florida weather leads to an accident, those responsible for the unsafe road condition may have legal liability.
5. Distracted Driving Increasingly Causes Car Accidents
Although Florida does have a ban on texting while driving, there is currently no law against talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel. That has led to some dangerous driving conditions in the Sunshine State. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported more than 51,000 crashes involving distracted drivers statewide in 2018.
Distracted driving happens anytime a driver takes his or her eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off the task of driving safely. We are all likely guilty of distracted driving at some point in our lives as drivers. Some examples of distracted driving include:
- Changing the radio station
- Using a GPS
- Eating or drinking
- Talking with the occupants in the car
- Lighting a cigarette
- Using handheld electronics
Distracted driving is a serious, nationwide problem. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission shows 3,450 distraction-related fatalities on U.S. roads in 2016. All traffic deaths are tragic, but these are especially so because they are so easily preventable.
6. Impaired, Fatigued, and Reckless Driving are Causes of Car Accidents
The most recent data reported by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation For Traffic Safety’s Culture Index gives us some eye-opening statistics about Americans’ driving behaviors. Based on a nationally representative survey of more than 2,600 U.S. motorists, of those surveyed:
- 43 percent admitted driving through a light that had just turned red
- 53.3 percent reported driving 15 miles over the speed limit on a freeway
- 13.5 percent said that, at least once in the past year, they drove when they felt their blood alcohol level was close to, or over, the legal limit
- 42.4 4 percent of drivers have at least one or more days a week when they get less than six hours of sleep
- 30.8 percent admit they have driven when so fatigued they “had a hard time keeping their eyes open”
- 44.9 percent read a text message while driving
- 21.4 percent have been involved in an accident that required someone to be taken to a hospital
Any of the driving behaviors above are considered “reckless.” If engaging in one of those behaviors resulted in an auto accident, the person who engaged in them would likely face potential legal liability. A driver who operates recklessly also faces potential criminal liability.
The Foundation for Traffic Safety’s statistics don’t cover all of the types of reckless driving that exist, either. Some additional examples of reckless driving include:
- Ignoring road markings
- Driving too fast for road conditions
- Improper backing up
- Failure to maintain a lane
- Failure to yield right of way
- Improper passing
- Making illegal turns
- Driving the wrong way
Speeding is an especially pervasive problem. The Florida Department Of Transportation warns us that only 85 percent of drivers travel at a safe speed. During the first 6 months of 2019, there have been 3,576 motor vehicle accidents with injuries in Lee County alone, and 116,382 statewide.
Fatigued driving also poses an extreme danger for Florida drivers. People often fail to appreciate how being tired affects driving performance. Believe it or not, a driver who has been awake too long is as dangerous to himself and others as a driver operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Drowsiness slows reaction times, impairs cognitive and motor skills, and can lead to catastrophic accidents in which the drowsy driver does not even attempt to slow down before an impact. In some cases, drowsy drivers will face legal liability for the harm they case in the same way a drunk driver might.
7. Automobile Defects And Malfunction
Manufacturing defects and design defects can cause vehicle malfunction and can be responsible for causing a car accident. Some examples of safety-related defects are:
- A defective steering mechanism
- Ineffective accelerator controls
- Wheels that crack
- Electrical system problems
- Leaky fuel system components
- Faulty windshield wipers
- Ineffective brakes
- Faulty transmissions
- Airbag issues
Automobile and automotive parts manufacturers are legally required to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When a defect has been identified, auto manufacturers release a recall, however, historically this sometimes happens only after there have been a significant number of accidents attributed to the defect.
More than 30 million vehicles are recalled every year. You can be a part of the solution for better roadway safety. Be proactive and check the 2019 recall list to become aware of recalls for your vehicle.
Errors in design and manufacturing can significantly contribute to automobile accidents in Florida. If automakers and parts manufacturers are negligent in the production of their products, they can be held accountable if consumers are injured.
The Risks of Technology Taking The Wheel
Automated driving and safety technology is moving into the mainstream. More and more cars on Florida roads have drivers and computers sharing control of the vehicle. There are potential huge safety benefits from this technology. When technology (partially) takes the wheel, today’s innovative devices are able to:
- Keep the car in the lane
- Prevent the driver from rear-ending the automobile in front of them
- Stop the driver from backing into another car, pedestrian, or a tree
- Park the car
- Tell the driver he or she may be fatigued
But the introduction of any new technology also causes growing pains. For now, some of the benefits of crash avoidance technology may not outweigh the potential dangers.
When drivers in cars with automated assistance technology don’t fully understand how these systems work, what triggers them, and how to use them safely and effectively, the results can be catastrophic, and sometimes deadly. For example, automatic safety systems that take over control of a vehicle trigger spontaneously and can frighten, confuse, and distract a driver unfamiliar with how the systems work. This can, in turn, cause the driver to make poor decisions behind the wheel to counteract the safety feature. As a result, safety improvements intended to minimize collisions may actually exacerbate them.
Two large populations of drivers in Florida face particular risk from new and unfamiliar safety technologies. Older drivers tend to have more difficulty adapting to new driving technologies than younger drivers. Likewise, tourists, who often drive rental cars and operate on unfamiliar roads, may also get taken by surprise by an unfamiliar technology.
Whatever Caused Your Injuries, Call Viles and Beckman to Find out if Compensation is Possible
No matter the common causes of car accidents, your accident is always unique. Depending upon the severity of the accident and the limits of a drivers’ personal injury protection coverage, victims of car accidents in Florida may have the right to receive financial compensation from parties who caused them harm. The damages accident victims may recover can include:
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning potential
- Medical expenses, present, and future
- The cost of physical and occupational therapy
- Necessary adaptive equipment
- Loss of personal property
- Pain and suffering, mental anguish
Of course, every car accident is different. There is never a guarantee of recovering damages from an at fault party. Speaking with an experienced car accident lawyer about your accident is the most reliable way to determine whether you may have legal rights to compensation.