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Most Common Causes Of Car Accidents

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, around 2.35 million Americans are injured or disabled in car accidents every year. Another 37,000 are killed.

In New York State, approximately 124,500 collisions caused personal injury in 2013 alone. 1,109 people lost their lives on our State’s roads.

In other words, 5 out of every 100 car accidents that occur in America do so in New York.

What Caused My Car Accident?

Were you injured in a car accident? You’re probably facing a host of medical expenses, time off work and a long recovery. It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when insurance companies make it almost impossible to get the care you need.

We believe that you deserve to be fully compensated, and cared for by trusted professionals. We believe that you deserve to thrive.

But if you’re looking to pursue the maximum fair compensation to which you are entitled, you’ll have to answer one, deceptively complex question: “what caused my car accident?”

Human Error: Simple Mistake Or Legal Negligence?

At first sight, most traffic collisions seem like freak accidents. But just because we didn’t see the crash coming, doesn’t mean that every accident is truly “accidental.”

In fact, researchers at Stanford Law School have found that an overwhelming 90% of motor vehicle crashes “are caused at least in part by human error.”

Of course, people make mistakes all the time. Some mistakes are innocent and, in those cases, it’s not a miscarriage of justice when no one is held responsible. But in the case of many traffic collisions, drivers should be held accountable for their actions.

What Is Negligence & How Does It Affect A Personal Injury Lawsuit?

When we drive, especially in congested areas like New York City, we owe other drivers a “duty of care.” In exchange for the right to travel the State’s streets, roads and highways, we all agree to keep each other safe, by following the law, keeping our hands on the wheel, and watching out for hazards.

But when motorists operate their vehicles irresponsibly, without regard for the safety of others, they’ve broken this “duty.” In legal terms, we call their actions “negligent.” And if another person if injured because of their negligence, these drivers can be found accountable in a court of law.

In short, if you were injured, and hope to pursue a lawsuit, you’ll have to prove that someone else’s negligence contributed to your damages. If you can, the court may award you significant compensation, putting you, and your family, on the road to recovery.

Top 10 Types Of Driver Negligence In NYC

As we already mentioned, almost every car accident is caused by some form of human error. Most involve a driver acting negligently. And thanks to the New York Police Department (NYPD), we have thorough data on the causes of these devastating accidents.

1. Driver Inattention & Distraction

In December of 2014, New York City’s streets saw a total of 4,129 traffic collisions that resulted in personal injury or death.

Out of those 4,129 crashes, more than 73% involved driver inattention or distraction. Flipping through radio stations, putting on makeup, reading a map – even the smallest diversion can become fatal.

In a relatively small percentage, negligent drivers were talking on their cell phones or texting while driving. At least 77 accidents involved passengers actively distracting drivers.

2. Following Too Closely

35% of New York City’s damaging collisions were caused by “tailgating,” when one driver follows another car too closely.

Although tailgating another driver usually results in what authorities consider “minor” accidents, even the lightest fender bender can have disastrous consequences.

Whiplash injuries are particularly common, and often require lengthy periods of rehabilitation to recover fully. You can learn more about auto crash injuries here.

3. Failure To Yield Right Of Way

“Right of way” rules are what give the City’s intersections such a notorious reputation for danger.

Out of December’s 4,129 personal injury accidents, almost 28% were caused by drivers who failed to yield to other drivers with the right of way.

4. Unsafe Lane Changes

1 out of every 5 accidents that caused personal injury in December occurred while drivers made dangerous lane changes. Most failed to signal their intentions before pulling recklessly into traffic.

5. Backing Up Unsafely

As stupid as it may sound, some drivers just don’t look behind them before backing up. In New York City, around 16% of all serious car crashes involve victims, many of them pedestrians, who are struck by motorists in reverse.

Backing up without checking to see if your path is clear isn’t just stupid; it’s negligent.

6. Unsafe Passing

We’ve all seen drivers whipping in and out of lanes at high speeds. And while they may have “important” things to take care of, more often than not, these reckless drivers place every one else in harm’s way.

Almost 15% of New York City’s monthly collisions are caused by drivers who pass other cars with no regard for safety.

An additional 467 serious crashes were the result of passing too closely.

7. Speeding

Surprised that unsafe speeds only came in at #7 on our list? So were we. Only 8% of the City’s crashes that result in personal injury or death involve excessive speeds.

Mayor de Blasio’s recent reduction of the City-wide speed limit to 25 miles per hour has no doubt reduced the amount of speeding drivers on our streets.

8. Inexperienced Drivers

7% of New York’s accidents involve young motorists, who often lack an adequate understanding of the City’s driving rules and can find it hard to cope with the pressures of driving in an urban area.

Check out our “Teenager’s Guide To Driving” to find simple tips for younger motorists.

9. Disregarding Traffic Signals

Lights and stop signs are there for a reason. They inject a measure of harmony and common sense in an otherwise chaotic driving scene. Almost 7% of New York City’s harmful collisions in December were caused by drivers who ran red lights or failed to stop at stop signs.

10. Drunk Driving

At the bottom of our list, but a proven killer, driving while intoxicated is a contributing factor in 4% of the City’s serious accidents.

According to the FBI, almost 300,000 Americans drive drunk every day. Less than 4,000 are caught.

To find more car accident statistics, click here.

Vehicle Malfunction

Without a doubt, driver negligence is the leading cause of car accidents. But another, more insidious, form of irresponsibility threatens our lives every day.

In a far-reaching analysis, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that an estimated 6.8% of all traffic collisions involve some type of vehicle malfunction.

The most common deficiencies broke down like this:

  1. Bald Tires
  2. Ineffective Brakes
  3. Steering System Malfunction
  4. Engine Failure
  5. Improperly Maintained Transmission
  6. Inadequate Suspension
  7. Broken Head or Brake Lights

Over time, cars break down as a matter of course. Without proper maintenance, our vehicles can eventually become unfit to drive. In the event that a vehicle’s condition contributes to an accident, drivers are actually legally responsible for the unsafe condition of their cars.

Vehicle Defects: Are Auto Makers Responsible?

Over the last year, we’ve seen millions of vehicles recalled by America’s major auto manufacturers. General Motors pulled one million off the road, after 42 drivers were killed due to a faulty ignition switch. And 11 million were recalled after Takata air bags began exploding violently during low-impact crashes.

It’s become common knowledge that car companies often make serious errors in design and manufacturing. Often, they ignore the problem until consumers are seriously injured. It took Takata ten years to inform the NHTSA of its defective air bags. In other cases, serious problems are baked right into the product. SUVs, for example, are far more likely to be involved in single-vehicle roll over crashes than any other passenger vehicles. To find out why, and learn more about particular types of car accidents, click here.

When large companies threaten the lives of American consumers, they can be held accountable. If you were injured due to a vehicle defect, contact the attorneys at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, P.C. to learn more about filing a product liability lawsuit.

Improper Road Design

More than 16% of all traffic accidents involve “roadway-related” factors. In many cases, drivers employ tactics unsuited to weather conditions: speeding on slick surfaces or carelessly changing lanes during a low-visibility snow storm.

But the very design and maintenance of our State’s roads and highways can also contribute to crashes. How closely did you inspect the scene of your crash?

1. Road Geometry

Roads don’t just come into being; they’re exactingly designed according to Federal and State standards.

For example, every curve in a highway must be designed to maximize the area your headlights cover. Uphill slopes should be gentle enough to allow drivers to see over them.

There are a million little requirements like those; add them all together and you have an acceptable road. But fail to take any into consideration, and you’ve designed potential danger right into the asphalt.

In about 1% of accidents, the NHTSA pointed to “roadway geometry” as a cause of injury.

2. Missing Traffic Signals Or Signs

Signs and signals are intended to make our roadways “intelligible.” They tell us what to expect up ahead, and how to act in potentially dangerous situations.

When these necessary markers are lacking, accidents happen. The NHTSA estimates that more than 10,000 traffic accidents occur every year because of missing signs.

On some roads, signs are present, but dangerous in themselves. It’s not uncommon for a State’s lawmakers to set a highway’s speed limit higher than is safe or practicable. In essence, they’re giving drivers “legal” license to drive at speeds unsuited to their environment.

3. Potholes & Other Road Defects

New York City’s streets are riddled with potholes, from small cracks to huge depressions. While no accurate statistics have been released, the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that 2014 saw 493,306 potholes filled. Obviously, there are far more that have been left gaping.

The DOT is responsible for maintaining our city streets in safe condition. But with over 6,000 miles of street and highway to monitor, the Department of Transportation does not immediately become legally liable for injuries sustained due to a pothole.

In order to hold New York City accountable for an accident, the DOT must have:

  1. received written notification of a road defect’s existence,
  2. been given a “reasonable” amount of time to fix the problem
  3. failed to repair the defect

New York City used to be home to an initiative that cataloged the City’s road defects and regularly informed the DOT of their existence. While that program is now gone, and arguing pothole-related claims has become more difficult, it’s far from impossible.

With an experienced auto accident lawyer at your side, you can hold the State or City of New York accountable for its negligence.

4. Other Factors

Although comparatively rare, crashes can be contributed to by these other forms of unsafe roadway design and maintenance:

  • ineffective drainage that allows water to pool on the road’s surface
  • inadequate or nonexistent guardrails
  • roads with vegetation planted too close to driving lanes
  • highways with extremely sharp drop-offs
  • roads with extremely narrow shoulders
  • roads without lane markers

Filing A Lawsuit For Unsafe Road Design Or Maintenance

If you were injured due to an improperly designed roadway, New York has laws that protect your rights.

Roadways are designed, constructed and maintained by governmental agencies. As you might expect, it’s more difficult to sue the government than a private individual. But your case isn’t hopeless.

In order to win, you’ll have to prove that the roadway:

  1. was unsafe
  2. could have been designed better
  3. was designed or built “without adequate study or lacked a reasonable basis.”

Road design lawsuits are extremely complex. The law is riddled with rules, exceptions and historical precedent. Good thing you don’t have to go it alone.

Contact LIPSIG’s Car Accident Attorneys Today

With over 80 years of combined trial experience, the personal injury attorneys at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, P.C. are thoroughly devoted to protecting your rights.

On this page, we cited a lot of facts and figures. Our intent was to show you that you’re not alone. Many New Yorkers have faced the same challenges that you do now, and come out stronger in the long-run.

But we don’t want you to fall into another statistical pile. You’re not just a number; you’re a thinking, feeling human being, a member of New York’s robust community, and people depend on you. We know that, and we believe that you deserve the best future possible.

We understand how devastating a car accident can be. Our only mission is to make this time easier for you. Whether that means pursuing a negligent party with aggression, or simply standing beside you in your time of need, we’ll do whatever it takes.

Contact our car accident attorneys today for a free consultation. Just call 212-285-3300 or complete our contact form. Speak with an experienced lawyer immediately and begin reviewing your legal options.