Our Cases Become Our Causes Start Your Free Consultation

Common Environment-Related Factors in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Posted By Anapol Weiss on this February 22, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Many automobile crashes can be attributed to driver error. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has examined several other critical reasons for accidents that affect thousands of people every year.

If you were involved in a wreck, speak to a Philadelphia car accident attorney at Anapol Weiss today.


The NHTSA conducted the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS) from 2005 to 2007 to collect information about factors leading to crashes involving light vehicles. Researchers investigated several factors of crash occurrence including pre-crash movement and events, the critical reason for the crash, and more.

Of the crashes observed in the NMVCCS, 52,000 were associated with an environment-related reason. The most common environmental factors leading to a crash included:

  • Slick roads
  • Glare
  • View obstructions
  • Other highway-related conditions
  • Fog, rain and/or snow
  • Other weather conditions
  • Signs and/or signals
  • Road design

About 50 percent of the crashes were attributed to slick roads. To combat these dangers, AAA recommends driving slower on wet and icy roads and increasing the following distance between your vehicle and those in front of you. Tire care is also critical; properly inflated tires in good condition can be extremely beneficial in bad weather.

Glare was the second most common reason for environment-related crashes. To compensate for reduced visibility caused by glare, drivers should decrease speed and increase following distance. AAA suggests looking down and to the right when oncoming vehicles are shining light directly into your eyes. Using your peripheral vision will reduce the effect of the glare, as you are not using the most light-sensitive part of your eyes. These and other recommendations help protect drivers from the dangers of glare at night as well as during the day.

Reckless Driving Can Also Cause Car Crashes

Aside from environmental causes, negligence also plays a pivotal role in causing car accidents. Human errors in driving include driving while sleep deprived, reckless driving, tailgating, and driving at high speeds. All of these dangerous behaviors contribute to hundreds of thousands of auto accidents every year. 

Common Car Crash Causes Due to Human Error

Common causes of car accidents attributed to human error, poor judgment or negligence include: 

  • Speeding 
  • Drunk Driving 
  • Distracted Driving
  • Running Stop Signs and Red Lights 
  • Inexperienced Driving

Distracted Driving 

While cellphones have made it possible to stay connected with each other, they have also created a major driving distraction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • Distracted driving was responsible for almost 3,000 fatal automobile accidents, and an estimated 400,000 injuries in 2018.
  • Cellphones and navigation devices are currently the lead causes of distracted driving, specifically sending or reading text messages.

Why is distracted driving so dangerous? “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed,” says the NHTSA website. This should be particularly alarming for parents of teens behind the wheel.

  • It is reported that 52% of people killed in teen distracted driving crashes were their peers.
  • The NHTSA’s research on teen distracted driving finds that 1 in 3 teens who text do so behind the wheel. This increases their risk by 23 times.
  • According to The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving.

Fortunately, distracted driving, like other car crashes caused by human error, is completely preventable. There are a lot of resources for students, parents and educators. Everyone can get involved with organizations such as EndDD, whose purpose is to educate students and parents on the dangers of distracted driving.

Reckless Driving 

Reckless driving, or aggressive driving, is described as driving in a way that shows blatant disregard or indifference toward person or property safety. According to a survey done by the RMIIA (Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association), 42% of drivers have reported engaging in aggressive  driving. A State Farm survey found that 64% of drivers have experienced reckless driving from other drivers on the road, roughly two out of three drivers. Examples of reckless driving include racing, passing on blind curves, swerving, drowsy driving, passing school buses with their stop signs down, going around railroad barriers, and speeding in many states, according to idrivesafely.com. Driver fatigue causes many accidents as well. In 2018, it was reported that speeding as responsible for over 9,000 deaths in the United Sates, roughly 25 people per day. Here are some statistics on how many Americans participated in these aggressive driving behaviors last year, from AAA:

  • Purposefully tailgating: 51 percent (104 million drivers)
  • Yelling at another driver: 47 percent (95 million drivers)
  • Honking to show annoyance or anger: 45 percent (91 million drivers)
  • Making angry gestures: 33 percent (67 million drivers)
  • Trying to block another vehicle from changing lanes: 24 percent (49 million drivers)
  • Cutting off another vehicle on purpose: 12 percent (24 million drivers)
  • Getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver: 4 percent (8 million drivers)
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose: 3 percent (6 million drivers)

Driving Under the Influence 

Driving under the influence is a major risk factor in car accidents. While driving drunk is a very commonly known driving hazard, it still accounts for roughly 30% of motor vehicle deaths in the United States. This is roughly 10 thousand fatalities per year, and 29 deaths per day. In 2018 it was reported that 20.5 million people drove under the influence of drugs.

Alcohol impairs your judgement, making reaction times slower leading to delayed response while driving. It also affects basic motor skills such as hand-eye coordination. This includes blurry vision, seeing double making it much more difficult for drivers to focus and stay on the road.  Attention span is also greatly compromised under the influence of alcohol increasing the risk of an accident even further. Driving under the influence of drugs also greatly impacts safe driving ability. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, individuals driving under the influence of marijuana have been found to have poor reaction times, engage in lane weaving and other dangerous driving behaviors. Harder drugs, such as opioids, can cause drowsiness or impaired judgement, while drugs such as cocaine can lead to aggressive driving. However, driving under the influence can be avoided by setting a DD (designated driver), calling a cab instead of driving, and through education on the risks of driving under the influence.

Speak to a Lawyer if You’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident 

The responsibility rests on each and every driver to prevent accidents by protecting themselves and their vehicles against the effects of environmental dangers to the best of their ability. Sadly, negligence on the road continues to result in preventable deaths and injuries. 

Contact our firm for assistance if you or a loved one was hurt in a motor vehicle accident caused by someone else’s carelessness. We can investigate the situation and answer your legal questions.

Topics Car Accident