According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 35,000 people lose their lives in car accidents every year in the U.S. Despite increasing safety features available in newer vehicles, the number of car accident deaths has not declined, partly because the number of vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. continues to rise. More cars on the roads mean more opportunities for car accidents, and despite major improvements in mass transit, traffic congestion from motor vehicles remains a problem.
How Many Car Accidents Occur Each Year in America?
In 2018, there were 33,654 motor vehicle crashes in America, and in those accidents, 36,560 people were killed. Americans often assume that they will be fine if they wear a seat belt. Drivers are much safer if they wear a seat belt, but they could still be gravely injured. In the District of Columbia, the death rate is 4.4 per every 100,000 people. Some may believe this is a good number, but Washington, D.C. is a small city. This means that the standard of driving and frequency of accidents are rather high. Traffic congestion is common in the D.C. area, and congestion can easily lead to more accidents as drivers enter and exit the city every day.
For example, there were 474 fatal crashes in 2018 in Maryland and 501 total deaths. This is a troubling number, and drivers should exercise caution as much as they can using these tips and reading through our website to learn about all the different types of accidents that can happen. Moreover, there were 260 single-car accidents and 241 multi-vehicle accidents in Maryland during that time.
What are the Leading Causes of Car Accidents?
When drivers get behind the wheel, they must be aware of what could happen on the road. Drivers are in control of several variables in the car, but they should also be aware of other drivers who may make poor decisions. Some drivers are guilty of doing several of these things during every car trip. These drivers may be safe today, but an accident could happen suddenly, even though the driver believes they are in control. Car accidents are a product of carelessness, bad luck, and prevailing conditions at the scene of the accident. Drivers must do what they can to avoid bad drivers, focus on the road, and use all the necessary safety precautions that are recommended by the government. Car accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, but the most common causes include the following:
Aggressive Driving: This includes any type of driving that is dangerous, such as tailgating and making constant lane changes. Aggressive driving can be a dangerous situation for people who are caught in the crossfire, even on surface streets. For example, someone who is being tailgated could be anxious and make bad decisions that cause an accident, and sudden lane changes could cause multi-vehicle accidents as drivers sideswipe one another or run off the road.
Aggressive driving can also lead to road rage if the person who is being aggressive gets upset at the actions of another driver. Aggressive drivers may stir up road rage that could involve multiple vehicles, and these drivers may even pull over to engage in physical altercations. Drivers should always avoid aggressive motorists. It is best to focus on the road. If someone is tapping their brakes, pull over, get off at the next exit, or turn onto a side street to avoid that driver. If the aggressive tactics of another driver are frightening, it might be best to call 911 to report that driver.
Distracted driving: This includes driving while texting, driving while speaking on a mobile phone, using a GPS device while driving, applying makeup, chatting with a passenger, eating, reaching down to pick an item off the floor, and reaching into the glove compartment. Any activity that takes a driver’s hands or eyes off the road can increase the risk for a serious accident. Distracted driving is a leading cause of rear-end wrecks.
Distracted driving also includes slowing down to watch accident scenes, talking to people outside the car, and trying to flag down other motorists. Again, passengers can distract the driver. If drivers need to slow for good reasons, they should use their hazard lights to alert other drivers of their slow driving or the situation.
Drowsy Driving: Fatigue is a factor in many serious traffic accidents. Aside from the dangers associated with falling asleep behind the wheel, even mild drowsiness can have a significant impact on a driver’s reaction time, as well as their ability to stay alert and use good judgment.
Truck drivers should be particularly careful because they often drive long routes, are expected to arrive on time, and drive too long, even though federal regulations require rest periods during long trips. If drivers believe another motorist is drowsy, they should contact the police or call 911 to get that motorist off the road.
Drunk Driving: Alcohol remains a significant danger to drivers on the road because impaired drivers cannot make split-second decisions, and their reaction time is compromised. Many people turn to ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to get home safely after a night of drinking.
Driving under the influence can stretch to driving while intoxicated if the driver is high on illegal drugs or prescription medication. Everyone in the group or at a party should be aware of anyone who is clearly not fit to drive and give them a ride. Drivers should err on the side of caution if someone is medicated for any reason.
Left-Hand Turn: Drivers who try to make a left-hand turn at an intersection against oncoming traffic can easily cause an accident if they do not yield to advancing traffic. When making a left-hand turn, drivers should proceed with caution, even if they have a green arrow. Drivers coming the other way might not notice that they need to stop.
Drivers who are turning alongside other vehicles should be careful of larger vehicles that might cut the corner as they turn. According to the NHTSA, turning left is the most common pre-crash event that can occur. Turning left occurs in 22.2 percent of all accidents, which should lead drivers to be more cautious. Left-hand turns should also include a scan of the crosswalk for pedestrians who have been given the walk signal. If a car speeds through a left-hand turn, the driver may not see a pedestrian who simply does not have the agility to jump out of the way.
Running a Red Light: Drivers who run red lights increase their chances of colliding with a vehicle that has a green light. In 2018, 846 people were killed in red-light accidents across America. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) notes that proper intersection light timing and cameras often prevent accidents or deter drivers who would drive through intersections.
Drivers should use more caution when sitting at a red light. Waiting just an extra second or two can prevent an accident if someone intends to run the light. At the same time, most drivers can see the entire intersection. If someone does not look like they will stop, it is best to wait until that driver either stops or illegally runs the light. Clients should also keep in mind that a red-light camera does not violate a motorist’s privacy. When obtaining a driver’s license, motorists agree to follow the laws of the state, and driving is regulated to ensure everyone’s safety.
Speeding: Driving faster than the speed limit greatly increases the impact of a collision and makes it nearly impossible for a driver to brake in time to avoid a rear-end wreck. Speeding also causes drivers to lose control of their vehicles. In 2018, 26 percent of all crashes involved speeding and 9,378 people were killed in these accidents.
Speed limits are posted for a reason, and sharp curves, construction zones, and roads with no shoulders should cause drivers to slow down. It is often too difficult for drivers to recover when they are going too fast, and their correction could cause an accident where the car slides, rolls over, or crashes into another vehicle. Inclement weather makes speeding much more dangerous for drivers, even if they believe they can control their vehicles.
Weather Conditions: By itself, bad weather cannot cause an accident, but it can create the environment in which an accident is far more likely. For example, a thunderstorm causes slick roads and poor visibility, and if people do not drive defensively in these conditions, they can easily cause car accidents, such as side-impact crashes. That is why there are nearly six million crashes a year and 21 percent of those crashes involve inclement weather conditions.
Ice and snow can pile up on the road. Black ice can form on clean streets, and bridges will freeze before the road. Some drivers might even encounter sun glare that makes it too hard to see. Drivers in large vehicles could be tipped over by heavy winds, and it is best to pull over if the conditions are not favorable.
Reckless Driving: This includes the driver having a willful disregard for the rules of the road, which include swerving in and out lanes, going over the posted speed limit, or trying to elude a police officer. These actions often lead to hefty charges and accidents.
Faulty Parts and Defects: Faulty parts and defective vehicles caused 44,000 accidents in 2018, and drivers may not realize there are problems with their vehicles until it is too late. Drivers should regularly search online or call their dealership for updates on recalls, and any problems with vehicles should be repaired as soon as possible. Typical issues with faulty vehicles that can cause accidents include the following:
- Faulty tires
- Poor welding or structural work
- Accelerators that stick or engage on their own
- Faulty brakes
- Loose hoses and wiring
- Improper electrical wiring or faulty sensors
- Airbags that do not discharge properly
- Windshield wipers that do not engage properly
- Improper use of fluids in a vehicle
- Fuel system issues
- Seat belts that fail
How Do Ridesharing Accidents Differ from Other Accidents?
Ridesharing accidents are unique because they present liability issues for everyone involved. If the driver of a ridesharing vehicle is at-fault for the accident, they must have insurance to pay for damages. If that driver was not trained or advised of their need for adequate insurance, the ridesharing corporation could be held liable for damages.
Ridesharing accidents that are caused by another driver will involve the guilty driver’s insurance. Even though the victims in the backseat were not driving or affiliated with the driver, they should retrieve personal and insurance information from the driver who is found at-fault.
Drivers should never leave the scene of a ridesharing accident assuming that the corporation sanctioning the vehicle will handle it. These companies do not own the vehicles involved in the accident, and they often have airtight contracts stating that their drivers are responsible for their own insurance.
How Do Pedestrian Accidents Occur?
Pedestrian accidents can occur for several reasons. Drivers may have carelessly driven through an intersection, or pedestrians might have walked through a crosswalk without having the signal to go. It can be difficult for drivers to stop if a pedestrian darts in front of them. If pedestrians are standing on the street corner, they could be clipped by a large truck that has cut the corner while turning. Pedestrians should be aware of who is on the road, who is turning, and look both ways before crossing. Likewise, drivers should slow down in all intersections to exercise extra caution to avoid any pedestrians.
How Do Motorcycle Accidents Differ from Car Accidents?
Motorcycle accidents and car accidents vary dramatically because motorcycles do not weigh nearly as much as cars. Motorcycles can be difficult to see on the road, and they might dart through traffic with little to no warning. Motorcycle riders should be aware of other vehicles, obey the speed limit, and avoid making sudden movements. Car drivers should be on the lookout for motorcycles and leave enough distance. A motorcycle can stop on a dime in a fraction of a second, but a car takes much longer.
Large truck drivers should be even more careful because a motorcycle could slide under a trailer instead of being sideswiped, and a rear-end wreck could be potentially fatal. Motorcyclists can also be thrown from their bikes during crashes, and motorcycles do not have the safety features found in cars.
How to Avoid Truck Accidents
Truck accidents are easy to avoid if car drivers know what to look for on the road. First, large trucks are difficult to drive, slow to pick up to speed, and take quite a long time to stop. Drivers who are near large trucks should not cut them off, and large trucks should be left extra room when they are turning.
Although it is true that large trucks can sideswipe small vehicles or cut corners when turning, large trucks can experience mechanical issues when they are driven too hard. For example, cutting off a large truck will cause the driver to overuse their brakes. If the brakes fail, the truck cannot stop. Car drivers use their brakes all the time without worry, but a large truck’s brakes must stop much more weight, and those trucks are often driven hundreds of thousands of miles between service appointments.
Truck drivers are also wise to follow all federal guidelines given by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding rest periods, truck inspections, and cargo loading. For example, drivers might fall asleep at the wheel if they have driven too long, improperly loaded cargo might tip over a trailer, and trucks that have not been inspected could fail at any time.
What About Uninsured Drivers?
Uninsured drivers are on the road every day, even though every driver in America is required to carry automotive insurance by law. Because these uninsured motorists could cause an accident at any time, drivers need to know how to deal with these types of accidents. The uninsured motorist portion of an auto policy will pay for these damages. Damages caused by an accident might include lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage. It is best to review the uninsured motorist portion of the policy to ensure that it will provide enough coverage.
If drivers believe that their insurance company is not acting in good faith or the insurance has claimed that the other driver actually has insurance, a car accident lawyer can help. A lawyer from our office will review the policy, ensure that the policy is written lawfully, and challenge the insurance company. Clients are asked to not speak to the insurance company or complain to the other driver. That driver has been cited by the police, and they will need to pay out of pocket for their damages. Injured drivers or passengers might also file a lawsuit to recover damages from an uninsured driver.
What Should Drivers Do After an Accident?
Drivers can use the following list of tips to manage an accident. Although these tips will not result in a favorable settlement or claim, drivers can make it easier to prove their case and remain safe:
- Call 911
- Check on other drivers
- Get out of the roadway
- Push cars to the side of the road
- Obtain a police report and the officer’s badge number
- Report the accident to your insurance company
- Try to find witnesses who will be willing to talk about what they saw
- Seek medical care
- Contact a car accident lawyer immediately
Are Passenger Injuries Settled in a Lawsuit?
Passengers involved in accidents must know which party is at-fault. The passenger in the car that caused the accident can file a claim against the driver’s insurance and possibly sue the driver for negligence. If the passenger is in a car that did not cause the accident, that passenger can file a claim against the other driver’s insurance.
Passengers may, however, have a part to play in an accident. If a passenger is found to have contributed to causing the accident, their claim could be denied. As mentioned, distracted driving includes interacting with passengers. A passenger who causes an accident could be sued by the driver of the vehicle and anyone else who was injured in the crash.
Can Motorists File a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident?
Motorists and their families can file a wrongful death claim in the state of Maryland if they have lost someone in an accident. A wrongful death case can be brought when a driver or passenger died and would have qualified for a personal injury suit or claim.
The driver or passenger may not have been killed in the accident, but they may have died as a result of the injuries they sustained in the accident. Therefore, all accident victims should seek immediate medical attention. For example, someone who develops internal bleeding needs a doctor to diagnose and treat the problem. If not, the other driver, their lawyer, and their insurance company can claim that those injuries were not sustained in the accident.
Those filing a wrongful death claim must be aware of the three-year statute of limitations. Families must also follow the rules set forth by the state. Individuals may file a wrongful death claim:
- If they are the child, spouse, or parent of the deceased
- If they are an extended family member who depended on the deceased
- If they represent the deceased’s estate
The Law Offices of Duane O. King should be contacted as soon as possible to avoid delays. Families that miss the statute of limitations will have their cases rejected by the court.
Why Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
After a victim suffer injuries in an accident that was caused by another driver, they may try to quickly reach a settlement with the driver’s insurance company. The goal of any insurance company is to pay as little as possible in a claim, even if the evidence shows that its client is liable for the accident; there are many variables that come into play.
Drivers who are involved in an accident should work with a lawyer as soon as the accident occurs. Contacting a lawyer allows them to investigate the crash as soon as possible. Evidence must be gathered, and witnesses must be interviewed. A lawyer will also work the insurance company and medical professionals when handling an injury claim.
By hiring a car accident lawyer, victims enlist an advocate who will communicate with the insurance company, gather the evidence necessary to support the claim, monitor medical treatment to ensure proper care, and negotiate a fair settlement.
Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Victims of All Types of Car Accidents
Reach out to the Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King when you need assistance with car accidents and injuries. We can provide you with the level of customer care and support that you need. Call us at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. With offices in Washington, DC, we serve accident victims throughout Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, and Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.