Leading Causes of Car Accidents in the US and Pennsylvania (2024)

what is the leading cause of vehicle accidents

Data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in recent years sheds light on the leading causes of car accidents. Through an earlier survey the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS), NHTSA determined “critical reasons for crashes.” These reasons fall into three main categories:

  1. driver-related;
  2. vehicle-related and;
  3. environment-related causes.

Driver-Related Causes of Car Accidents

The NMVCCS discovered that 94% of motor vehicle accidents were caused by driver-related reasons. These reasons are categorized as recognition errors, decision errors, performance errors, and non-performance errors.

  • Recognition errors: These include driver inattention, internal and external distractions, and a failure to maintain situational awareness, causing 41% of car accidents.
  • Decision errors: These include driving too fast for conditions or curves, falsely assuming others’ actions, making illegal maneuvers, or misjudgments of others’ speed, which were assigned to 33% of accidents.
  • Performance errors: These cause 11% of crashes and include overcompensation and poor directional control.
  • Non-performance errors: Responsible for 7% of auto accidents, the most prominent error is sleepiness or driver fatigue.

 94% of motor vehicle accidents were caused by driver-related reasons.

Pennsylvania Data on Driver Related Causes of Accidents

Closer to home, crash data collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) over a recent full year provides additional information on driver-related accident causes:

  • Speeding played a role in 26,848 crashes, with 404 accidents resulting in fatalities.
  • Driving Under the Influence contributed to 7,724 crashes and 140 included fatalities.
  • Proceeding Without Clearance led to 8,656 accidents, with 64 fatalities.
  • Driver Distraction factored in 11,484 accidents, including 62 fatalities.
  • Improper Turning contributed to 13,079 crashes and 62 fatalities.
  • Careless or Illegal Passing factored in 5,328 accidents, with 57 resulting fatalities.
  • Driver Fatigue contributed to 2,396 crashes, leading to 12 fatalities.
  • Tailgating led to 5,797 crashes, 11 of which caused fatalities.

Vehicle Related Causes of Car Accidents

What Is the Leading Cause of Vehicle Accidents. Person driving down the roadJust as drivers owe others on the road an obligation of safety, so do vehicle manufacturers and part manufacturers, inspectors, and mechanics. Injuries due to a car accident arising from a defective auto parts count as personal injury damages, and you can seek compensation through a type of personal injury lawsuit called product liability.

According to the NMVCCS, with regard to vehicle-related causes of crashes:

  • Tire or wheel issues contributed to 15,000, or 35%, of vehicle-related accidents.
  • Brake issues factored into 10,000, or 22%, of vehicle-related accidents.
  • Steering, suspension, transmission, or engine problems contributed to 2,000, or 3%, of vehicle-related accidents.
  • Other unknown vehicle issues factored into 17,000, or 24%, of vehicle-related accidents.

Pennsylvania Data on Vehicle Related Causes of Accidents

PennDOT showed a similar dispersion of results, with tire- or wheel-related problems contributing to 996 vehicle-related accidents. Brake problems came in second, contributing to 723 car accidents, followed by:

  • Total steering system failure: 357
  • Powertrain failure: 265
  • Suspension: 86
  • Unsecured or shifted trailer loads: 42
  • Body, doors, hood problems: 33
  • Problematic vehicle lighting: 20
  • Other unspecified problems: 52

A car crash may not always be a driver’s fault. For example, if a brand-new vehicle comes off the seller’s lot with a defect, if an inspector misses a problem, or if a mechanic fails to repair a problem adequately, that vehicle can cause tremendous damage.

Environment-Related Causes of Car Accidents

What Is the Leading Cause of Vehicle Accidents. Car Driving Down Icy RoadWeather, road conditions, road design, and other environmental factors can also contribute to motor-vehicle crashes at a rate of about 2%, according to the NMVCCS. The leading environmental cause, slick roads, contributed to 50% of environment-related accidents. Additional factors included glare (17%), view obstruction (11%), signs and signals (3%), weather conditions (4%), and road design (1%).

Pennsylvania Data on Environment Related Causes of Accidents

The PennDOT data breakdown shows 80.5% of accidents in the state occurred without adverse weather conditions. That said, the following conditions contributed to the remaining 19.5%:

  • Rain, fog, or a combination
  • Snow, sleet, and/or freezing rain
  • Fog and/or smoke
  • Other unspecified weather conditions

80.5% of accidents in the Pennsylvania occurred without adverse weather conditions.

Similarly, most roads were dry at accident sites, but wet roads, snowy or slushy conditions, or icy patches still contributed to the 11,938 Pennsylvania car accidents related to weather and road conditions.

Roadside Objects and Animals

Some of Pennsylvania’s auto accidents involved impact with other road obstacles or wildlife. The PennDOT report found the objects most commonly hit or involved in accidents include:

  • Utility poles
  • Parked vehicles
  • Guardrails or barriers
  • Trees
  • Embankments
  • Deer
  • Medians

Though weather conditions are no one’s fault, municipalities and state governments are responsible for clearing roads in reasonable amounts of time and issuing driver warnings. Drivers must also adjust their driving behaviors in adverse conditions. Government entities are also in charge of ensuring traffic signals are operational, traffic signs are visible, and road markings and designs are clear.

Investigate the Cause of Your Car Accident Now

If you were hurt in a car crash because another entity failed to live up to its responsibility, you should not have to pay the financial costs and deserve to be compensated for your losses. Connect with an experienced Pittsburgh car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your crash and find out what to do after a car accident. Do not speak with representatives for any other involved parties until you have met with SMT Legal for a free consultation.

You need someone on your side who can investigate the accident, protect your rights, and advocate for your potential compensation. Our legal team is here for you. Contact us to schedule a free case review today.

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