Car Accident Causes

What Are the Top Causes of Car Accidents?

Every year, millions of drivers are killed or severely injured in car accidents across the world. According to the most recent release of the South Carolina Traffic Collision Fact Book:

  • One traffic collision happens every 3.7 minutes
  • One person is injured in a car accident every 9 minutes
  • One person is killed every 8.7 hours.

In 2019, a total of 141,096 collisions occurred in South Carolina. Several categories saw notable increases, with serious injury collisions increasing by 20.9% year on year and persons seriously injured climbing a whopping 22.5%.

There’s no denying the severity of a car wreck, but what’s causing them?

We look at the top causes of car accidents.

What’s the Number One Cause of Car Accidents?

The number one cause of car accidents in the US is distracted driving, which is a type of driver error. Distracted driving comprises a range of behaviors, from texting, talking on the phone while driving, changing the music or radio station to eating or drinking, checking social media, and talking to other passengers.

It’s not surprising that distracted driving is the number one cause, given its prevalence. In December 2021, we surveyed drivers in America and found that almost 50% regularly engage in these behaviors. Most admitted to talking to other passengers or changing music, but a sizable percentage also admitted to talking on the phone, reading or sending text messages, and checking social media while driving (22.9% combined).

Other Top Causes of Car Accidents

Driver error is the most common cause of car accidents, but it’s not the only one. A much smaller number of accidents are caused by vehicle error — such as brake failure — and environmental factors, including poor weather and potholes.

Some of the other top causes of car accidents include:


Whether they’re running late or are against a tight deadline and need to get to their destination fast, drivers may be tempted to drive above the legal limit. But speeding affects a driver’s reaction time, and it can be deadly.

Speeding can cause drivers to miss hazards entirely and rear-end a vehicle up ahead or to swerve and lose control of their vehicle.

Speeding is particularly dangerous in truck accidents. Semi-trucks are large and heavy — weighing as much as 80 thousand pounds — and this means it takes longer for a truck to stop. Even if a speeding truck driver sees a hazard and hits the breaks, they may not slow in time. 

Driving While Intoxicated

Deaths involving a drunk driver have fallen over recent years, but it’s still a leading cause of car accidents. Ultimately, a person loses their life to a drunk driver every 52 minutes in the US, and many more end up with serious injuries.

Drinking impairs focus and concentration and slows reaction speed. But being drunk behind the wheel isn’t the only danger.

Driving while intoxicated also encompasses drug use. Stimulant use among truck drivers is particularly high, but even taking an antihistamine or prescribed medication can cause drowsiness and increase the risk of a crash.


Many behaviors fall under the umbrella of reckless driving, ranging from running a red light, being aggressive, and driving while tired to tailgating another driver and driving in the wrong direction.

Brake Failure

Brake failure falls under vehicle error, and while this cause of car accidents pales in comparison to driver error, it still contributes to a large number of car wrecks.

A single brake failure can cause a multi-vehicle collision — and it can happen at any time.

Tire Blowouts

A tire blowout can be particularly dangerous, especially when combined with other factors. If a tire has seen better days and a car brakes suddenly or hits a pothole, the tire can blow, turning the driver into a passenger.

While drivers can take precautions to avoid a blowout, such as keeping their tires inflated and regularly checking for damage, tires can be faulty from the get-go, and you won’t know until it’s too late.


Potholes form due to continued pressure on the road, where water seeps under the asphalt, freezes, and melts. Over time, the asphalt expands and cracks, and it can cause sizable holes in the road.

While driving directly over a pothole can blow a tire or bump a driver and cause them to lose control, accidents can also happen if a driver swerves into traffic to avoid one.

Inclement Weather

There’s little we can do about the weather, and sometimes, driving during heavy rain, high winds, or a snowstorm is necessary. While most drivers take care in icy or wet conditions, others can be reckless — even driving at a normal speed can cause a severe car crash.

Obscured Signs

We all rely on road signs when driving, especially on roads we’re unfamiliar with. Signs tell us how fast we can drive, when there’s a sharp turn incoming, when we’re coming into a pedestrian zone, and more. When these vital signals are obscured by overgrown foliage or fallen trees caused by inclement weather, it can cause a crash.

These might be the most common causes of car accidents, but a crash can happen in any circumstance. Often, it isn’t your fault, and you might be entitled to a settlement to cover your expenses and compensate you for your injuries.

If you’ve been in a car accident, our car accident lawyers in South Carolina can help you get justice and compensation. To find out if you have a claim, get in touch for your free, no-obligation case review.