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The Most Common Causes of Car Accidents in California

Driving in California you can enjoy a relaxing drive along the sunny coast or navigate the busy city streets. With scenic routes that take your breath away, the last thing on your mind might be the most common causes of car accidents. Yet, this idyllic setting is stained by a grim statistic: California is a hotspot for some of the most devastating road accidents in the nation.

serious auto accidents multi cars

The California Office of Traffic Safety reports a troubling number of incidents each year. For instance, in 2019, there were over 3,600 deaths and 276,000 injuries resulting from car accidents. These figures are not just numbers. They represent lives changed forever and underline the critical need for safer driving practices.

Let’s explore the main causes of road accidents and provide tips for drivers to reduce these risks.

1. Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents. It involves any activity that diverts attention from driving. Texting or using a mobile phone is particularly dangerous because it:

  • Takes the driver’s eyes off the road
  • Takes hands off the wheel, and
  • Mind off driving

Other distractions can include eating, drinking, adjusting the radio, or even talking to passengers.

These activities, even if they seem harmless, can significantly reduce a driver’s reaction time and situational awareness. Distracted driving is particularly precarious when driving on dangerous curves. Malibu, California has seen some of the worst motor vehicle accidents of this type.

Taking your eyes off the road for just five seconds at 55 mph is like driving the length of a football field, with your eyes closed. The consequences can be devastating, leading to severe injuries or fatal car crashes.

2. Impaired Driving

Impaired driving is a leading cause of bad car accidents, resulting in numerous injuries and fatalities each year. When driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the ability to make decisions, react, and maintain control is significantly reduced. Here are key points to understand about impaired driving:

Alcohol Impairment

  • Drunk Driving Accidents: Drunk drivers often experience reduced reaction times, impaired judgment, and decreased coordination, leading to serious accidents.
  • California Legal Limits: It is illegal for drivers aged 21 and over to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. For drivers under 21, any detectable BAC is unlawful.
  • Consequences: Drunk driving accidents can result in severe legal penalties, including fines, license suspension, and imprisonment.

Drug Impairment

  • Illicit Drugs: Drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine can significantly impair cognitive and motor functions, increasing the risk of bad car crashes.
  • Prescription Medications: Even legal prescription drugs can impair driving abilities. Follow dosage instructions and be aware of side effects.

Combined Substance Use

  • Alcohol and Drugs: Using alcohol in combination with other drugs can amplify impairment effects, making accidents more likely and more severe.

Preventative Measures

  • Designated Drivers: Plan ahead by designating a sober driver if you plan to drink.
  • Alternative Transportation: Use taxis, rideshare services, or public transportation if you are impaired.
  • Education and Awareness: Promote awareness about the dangers of impaired driving through community programs and public campaigns.

3. Tailgating

Tailgating, or following too closely behind another vehicle, is a common and dangerous driving behavior. When drivers tailgate, they reduce the time and space needed to react to sudden stops or unexpected obstacles. This often leads to rear-end collisions, which can cause significant injuries and vehicle damage.

A car following too closely: tailgating

Rear-end collisions are especially common in heavy traffic and on highways, where drivers may feel pressured to keep up with the flow of traffic. However, maintaining a safe following distance is crucial for avoiding accidents. The general rule is to keep at least a three-second gap between your car and the vehicle in front. Increase this distance in poor weather conditions, such as rain or fog, where stopping distances are longer.

Tailgating not only increases the risk of accidents but also contributes to road rage and aggressive driving. Maintaining a safe distance and being patient can help create a safer driving environment for everyone on the road.

4. Road Rage Accidents

Road rage is an alarming phenomenon that has transformed some California roads into arenas of aggression. When drivers let their emotions take the wheel, the results can be disastrous.

Road Rage Accident | Reckless Driving Car Accident Lawyer

Incidents of road rage may involve:

  • Tailgating
  • Excessive honking
  • Cutting off other drivers
  • Rude gestures
  • Physical confrontations

To counteract road rage, drivers should strive to remain composed, regardless of the behavior of others. Practice defensive driving and be courteous on the road.

Angry Driver

Road rage incidents can lead to:

  • Severe accidents
  • Injuries
  • Legal consequences
  • Fatalities

Should you encounter an aggressive driver, it’s wise to maintain distance and avoid confrontation. Remember, safety is paramount, and no dispute is worth the potential consequences of an accident.

5. Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road

Driving on the wrong side of the road causes most terrible car accidents in California. Not only that, it is a serious traffic violation.

Confused Driver Wrong Way Driving

This reckless behavior can result from:

  • Driver confusion
  • Impaired driving
  • Missing road signs
  • One-way streets
  • Intentional acts of aggression

Regardless of the cause, driving on the wrong side dramatically increases the risk of head-on collisions. Head-on collisions are among the most deadly car crashes.

Head-on collisions often happen at high speeds and can cause serious injuries or deaths because of the strong impact. These accidents are more likely to happen at night or on rural roads. However, they can also occur in urban areas, particularly at intersections or when drivers make illegal turns.

To avoid driving on the wrong side of the road, it’s crucial to stay alert and follow road signs and markings carefully. Drivers should always obey traffic signals and be mindful of one-way streets, especially in unfamiliar areas. If you realize you are on the wrong side, safely pull over and correct your direction as soon as possible.

By obeying traffic laws and staying alert, drivers can prevent the consequences of driving on the wrong side of the road.

6. Tire Blowouts

Tire blowouts are sudden and unexpected tire failures that can cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle. A blowout occurs when a tire loses air pressure. A puncture, impact damage, overloading, or under-inflation can cause a blowout. When a blowout happens, the car may swerve or become difficult to steer, increasing the risk of a crash.

blown out tires

On highways, where speeds are higher, tire blowouts can potentially lead to rollovers or multi-vehicle accidents.

Factors contributing to tire blowouts include:

  • Under-inflated tires
  • Overloading a vehicle beyond its weight capacity
  • Hitting potholes, curbs, or other road debris

How to Prevent Tire Blowouts

To prevent tire blowouts, it is crucial to conduct regular maintenance checks on your vehicle’s tires, this includes:

  • Monitoring tire pressure
  • Inspecting for damage or excessive wear
  • Ensuring that the vehicle’s load does not exceed its recommended capacity
  • Replacing worn or damaged tires promptly 

If you get a tire blowout, stay calm, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel, and gradually decelerate without slamming on the brakes.

Safely steer the vehicle to the side of the road and turn on hazard lights to alert other drivers. By understanding the causes and prevention methods, drivers can reduce the risk of tire blowouts and ensure safer travels.

7. Improper Lane Changes

Improper lane changes are a significant cause of road accidents. They often result from drivers failing to follow safe driving practices. Failure to yield is ranked as one of the top reasons for traffic collisions. Unfortunately, improper lane changes contribute significantly to this issue.

Unsafe Lane Change

In California, changing lanes in the middle of an intersection is common. This practice is particularly dangerous because it can confuse other drivers and disrupt the flow of traffic. Drivers may not expect vehicles to switch lanes in such areas, leading to confusion and potential collisions.

Unsafe lane changes also occur when drivers fail to check their blind spots or signal their intentions. This lack of communication can cause serious accidents, especially on busy highways where traffic moves at high speeds. Merging without ensuring a clear path or abruptly switching lanes often results in side-impact collisions.

To avoid improper lane changes, always signal well in advance, check mirrors and blind spots, and ensure there is ample space to move safely. Avoid lane changes in intersections and to yield to other vehicles when merging.

8. Driving in Inclement Weather

While California is renowned for its sunny climate, it is not without its share of adverse weather conditions. Driving in fog, rain, and snow can quickly transform the driving landscape. This introduces risks such as reduced visibility and slippery road surfaces. When it rains the roads are most slippery because oil mixes with the water.

Driving in Rain

If confronted with poor weather conditions, drivers should exercise extra caution, like: 

  • Reduce speed
  • Increase following distances
  • Use headlights to improve visibility
  • Use fog lights and high beams correctly

When driving in the rain, avoid sudden maneuvers, such as sharp turns or abrupt braking, which can lead to loss of control. Lastly, prepare for changing weather conditions to better face driving challenges.

9. Failure to Yield

Bright pedestrian crossing signs help prevent failure to yield accidents.

Failure to yield is a significant cause of accidents in California, often leading to intersection collisions. These incidents occur when drivers ignore traffic signals or signs. They also happen when drivers fail to yield to other cars or pedestrians.

Common examples of failing to yield include:

  • Ignoring traffic signals
  • Rushing through a yellow light
  • Running red lights
  • Not stopping at a stop sign
  • Neglecting to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks

To prevent accidents caused by failure to yield, drivers must remain alert and attentive to traffic signals. Come to a complete stop at stop signs, look both ways before proceeding, and respect the right of way of pedestrians and other vehicles. If you live near a school, this is especially important as children on e-bikes tend to plow through intersections.

Lastly, drivers should never assume others will yield to them. Prepare to stop even if you have the right of way.

10. Speeding:  Serious Injuries Occur Because a Driver’s Speed

Speeding stands out as the most prevalent cause of car accidents in California. The allure of the open road can often tempt drivers to push the limits of speed. But this behavior significantly increases the likelihood of crashes and the severity of their outcomes. Speeding diminishes a driver’s reaction time and the effectiveness of safety features, such as airbags and seatbelts.

Speeding Car on a California Highway

The issue of speeding is a significant concern across California. According to Caltrans, the state sees more than 3,600 traffic deaths and 13,000 serious injuries annually. Speeding and aggressive driving account for roughly 34% of these severe car accidents. These figures emphasize the critical need for drivers to maintain safe speeds and drive responsibly.

Adhere to posted speed limits and adjust speed according to traffic, weather, and road conditions. School zones and residential areas deserve special attention as it’s where pedestrians and cyclists are present. Drivers can play a crucial role in reducing the number of accidents on California’s roads by watching their speed.

El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers: Trusted Car Accident Attorneys in California

As we navigate the roads of California, let us prioritize safety and responsibility. By obeying traffic laws and practicing defensive driving, we can improve the safety of our roads and reduce the common causes of car accidents.

El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers - Personal Injury Attorneys in California

If you are affected by a reckless driving accident, seek legal assistance immediately. Contact our experienced personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles, Torrance, or Huntington Beach today for a free consultation. Let us help you navigate the legal process and secure the compensation you deserve. Don’t wait – call now to protect your rights.