Top Causes of Fatal Car Accidents in the US

If you were asked to name the most dangerous places to drive in the world, the United States probably wouldn’t make the list. In reality, though, the USA has a higher rate of fatal car accidents than any other country with a comparative transportation system.

Our dangerous driving habits contribute to an average of ninety deaths each day. If we dropped our average road accident fatality rate down to that of our comparative countries, this would add up to 18,000 fewer fatalities each year.

What is it that makes American roads so deadly? Some of it has to do with non-ideal conditions, but most of it has to do with the drivers. To find out more about the most common causes of fatal car accidents on US roads, keep reading.


What do cellphones, air conditioners, pets, rowdy friends, and fast food all have in common? They’re all frequent causes of distracted driving accidents.

Anything that takes your eyes off the road for even a second could end in disaster, especially when you’re driving at high speeds. That’s all the time it takes for the car ahead of you to slam on the breaks, a deer to start crossing the road, or a pedestrian to step into your path.

While you’re driving, put down anything that could potentially cause a distraction. Make sure your radio and heat/AC settings are where you want them before you leave the driveway and make sure all passengers know not to draw your attention. Don’t eat while you’re driving and make sure all pets or small children have secured away from the driver’s seat.

Speeding and Reckless Driving

There’s a reason that police can issue tickets for “reckless driving”, regardless of your speed: along with hazardous road conditions, driver errors and negligence are two of the three leading causes of road accidents. These behaviours often include:

  • driving much faster or slower than posted speed limits
  • swerving between lanes or across the median
  • taking turns too fast
  • weaving through traffic lanes
  • ignoring traffic signals and/or signage

When you’re driving, make sure you’re always abiding by the posted speed limits. Most people end up driving recklessly when they’re running late, so make a habit of leaving early for work and appointments.

Driving Under the Influence

Drugs and alcohol are well-known culprits behind many car crashes. These substances slow your response times, impair your judgment and decision-making skills, and even cause medical emergencies while you’re behind the wheel.

Things other than drugs and alcohol can also hinder your ability to drive safely. Being overly tired, for example, can cause you to fall asleep at the wheel. Even dozing off or losing focus for a few seconds is long enough for you to drift off the road or into oncoming traffic.

Driving while you’re emotionally compromised is also hazardous. If you’re crying, experiencing a panic attack, or fuming with rage, pull off the road or find somewhere to park and collect yourself before continuing on your way.

Poor Road and Weather Conditions

Sometimes, the elements and the roads themselves are to blame for driving disasters. These hazardous conditions can include:

  • construction on or near the road
  • poorly maintained, unpaved, or damaged roads
  • snow and ice
  • heavy rains
  • flooding
  • strong winds
  • heavy fog
  • severe storms

Before you leave the house, always check to see whether you’ll encounter any road hazards or inclement weather on your trip. If possible, take a different route to avoid the hazard or wait until the weather clears up before driving.

Inexperienced Drivers

Even though no one can ever call themselves a “perfect” driver, the extended driving practice certainly does improve your road safety. That’s why traffic accidents are the second leading cause of death for teenagers who’ve only just gotten their driver’s licenses. In 2018 alone, there were nearly 2,500 deaths in this age group from car crashes, and almost 300,000 more had to go to the emergency room for their injuries.

If you’re a teen driver, make sure you take the time to practice driving in all road conditions before you ever hit the highway. Don’t drive with friends who will distract you, put down the cellphone, and pay close attention to your surroundings at all times. It takes years of driving to build the automatic reactions that keep you safer in unusual circumstances.

Dangerous Intersections and Poorly Marked Roads

No matter how safe of a driver you are, some areas you drive through will always carry a higher risk than others. It could be a poorly-marked sharp turn, an unusually shaped intersection, or a roundabout. These road features require drivers to leave “autopilot” mode and be extra aware of their surroundings, something people unfamiliar with the area aren’t likely to do.

Whenever you move to a new area (or even if you aren’t familiar with the area you already live in), it’s always a good idea to learn about the most accident-prone roads and intersections. Check your local newspapers, local TV news station, and reliable accident news sites like to learn more about car crash hotspots near you.

Understanding Road Safety Is Key to Avoiding Fatal Car Accidents

Driving is one of the riskiest activities that many of us will participate in the day-to-day. Even so, understanding the common causes of fatal car accidents can help you avoid being involved in one yourself. The next time you put your keys in the ignition, remember the items on this list and practice safe driving techniques.

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