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Car Accident Overview

Unfortunately, most people who drive a car will at some point in their life be involved in a car accident. When this happens, you should call a car accident lawyer so that you have someone fighting on your side. Minor fender-benders and other small collisions, while costly in terms of car repairs, usually do not result in serious injuries to those involved. However, the state of California, including the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, both have a high population and a large number of drivers which increase the overall incidence and risk of car accidents.

Serious car accidents are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries and serious spinal injuries, both of which may lead to permanent disability, mental and physical impairments, long-term financial, emotional, physical damages and even death.

Long-term physical injuries sustained in a car accident might not present themselves immediately or in their full severity. Sometimes what appear to be minor personal injuries or insignificant pain can lead to permanent back or neck pain, herniated disks, ruptured spinal disks or more devastating internal organ or brain injuries. Those involved might have pain for years, or even permanently, that is difficult to quantify yet causes great personal distress.

Types of Car Accidents

  • Car accidents fall under the umbrella category of traffic collisions, which involve a motor vehicle and another vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal or geographical object.
  • Car accidents are classified by the mechanism or manner of collision. Mechanisms of collision include rollovers, rear-end impacts, head-on crashes, side or T-bone collisions and off road collisions. Although each category is potentially dangerous or fatal, rollovers, head-on collisions and side collisions are the most lethal.
  • Head-on collisions involve two vehicles driving towards each other from opposite directions and colliding front to front. Side impact collisions most often occur at intersections where one car is turning and another car fails to yield to right-of-way at a stop sign or a red light. Off-road collisions usually involve one vehicle which either swerves off the road or is knocked off the road by another object. Off-road collisions can lead to rollovers or steep drops, both of which are highly fatal. Fortunately off-road crashes account for only 16% of all car accidents.
  • Rear end collisions are usually caused by tailgating in combination with distracted driving and/or speeding. The most common type of car accidents, rear-end collisions can be simple taps or very serious, depending on the speed at which the vehicles were traveling. Rear end collisions are under-represented statistically as many drivers do not report minor collisions to keep their insurance premiums down.

Car Accident Statistics

  • Dialing a cell phone multiplies one’s risk of a car accident by 2.8 while talking on a cell phone multiplies the risk by 1.3.
  • Texting multiplies the risk of a car accident by 23.2 times.
  • California is consistently ranked as one of the top three states in the nation for numbers of car accidents and fatalities.
  • Approximately 25% of all fatal car accidents within the state of California are the result of the alcohol or drug use of one or both of the drivers.
  • Los Angeles has the highest number of fatal car accidents in California.
  • Approximately 35% of fatal car accidents occur through collisions with other motor vehicles.
  • Head on collisions account for only 2% of all car accidents, yet represent 10% of all fatal car accidents.
  • Side impact collisions account for 28.9% of all car accidents in the United States.
  • Rollovers account for 2.3% of United States car accidents annually and are more likely to occur in larger vehicles like SUVs or minivans because of their higher center of gravity.
  • Rear impact collisions account for 29.6% of all United States car accidents.
  • Fatal car accidents involving a pedestrian and a motor vehicle account for about 250 deaths annually in Los Angeles alone.
  • Small and mid-sized passenger cars make up the largest proportion of fatal car accidents followed by SUVs, minivans and light trucks.
  • Failure to wear a seat belt plays a part in 60% of car accident injuries and deaths.

How Car Accidents Occur

According to the NHTSA, 80% of all car accidents and up to 65% of near-miss car accidents are due to distracted driving no more than 5 seconds before the crash. Distracted driving may not seem like an egregious departure from safety but it is the leading cause of car accidents. Any activities engaged in while driving that divide a driver’s attention create distracted driving conditions. Although there is nothing that can be done to prevent random accidents such as falling palm trees or earthquakes most car accidents occur due to circumstances or actions that could have been prevented or minimized.

Driving above the speed limit is the second largest cause of accidents due to driver negligence. Speeding slows the ability to react and correct in the event of unforeseen obstacles. Even driving only 5 miles per hour over the speed limit can result in a fatality if a vehicle strikes a pedestrian.  Driving drunk or under the influence of other drugs is an obvious form and driver negligence that causes slow reaction times, decreased ability to observe driving conditions and other vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles on the road.

Reckless driving is also an obvious cause of accidents, endangering not only the reckless driver but those nearby who cannot predict where they will go. Drivers on the road with aggressive and reckless vehicles must use defensive driving techniques to avoid or minimize interaction with these sorts of cars. Speed racing is a deadly form of reckless driving.

Weather conditions such as rain snow ice or fog, locations where large animals are known to cross, or roads that are curvy, unpredictable, narrow or unfamiliar may all cause accidents and drivers must exercise the utmost caution and awareness in these circumstances. Bad roads with potholes can cause tire blowouts and loss of control.

Most car accidents result from a combination of factors such as low visibility and driver distraction or wild animals crossing an icy road. Car accidents occur due to driver negligence which includes aggressive driving, inattentive driving, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol or fatigue or driving while engaging and other tasks like texting or applying make-up. Accidents also occur because of defective or neglected driving equipment, such as poorly maintained brakes, defects in the steering wheel, or tire blowouts from poorly maintained or poorly constructed tires. Bad roads, improper warning signs and low visibility due to weather in addition to random debris on roads all cause thousands of car accidents annually.

Driving is an inherently risky activity. Speed limits are designed for maximum driver and pedestrian safety and several departments of the United States government work together each year to learn more about car accident causes and the best measures to prevent them. Drivers too must remain aware of their own responsibilities when on the road, both to themselves and those around them, each time they get behind the wheel. Impatience and distraction while driving lead to more preventable deaths than any other type of accident.

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