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Why Do Car Crashes Happen? 2020’s Rise in Fatalities Explained

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In 2020, a record low number of cars were on the road. At the same time, a high record number of fatal crashes occurred. Preliminary data from the National Safety Council shows that an estimated 42,060 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2020, which is an 8% increase from 2019. This sharp increase in fatalities during historically mild traffic conditions has left road safety officials wondering: “Why do car crashes happen when our roads are emptier than ever before?”  

The Federal Highway Association shows that the number of miles vehicles traveled decreased by about 430.2 billion in 2020. This is primarily due to lockdowns and remote work, which restricted travel. However, more drivers were put at risk on the road than they had been in 13 years. To understand this shocking trend, it’s necessary to examine the root causes of car accidents alongside data from previous years.

Where do most collisions occur?

Although car accidents can occur in any locale, statistics point to a higher rate of collisions in certain areas. These include:

  • Rural Areas
    According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s data, 45% of fatal motor vehicle accidents occurred on rural roads. Since collisions can happen more often when speeding is involved, many drivers on these less crowded roads take the opportunity to drive at unsafe speeds.

  • Neighborhoods
    This might come as a surprise, but the reality is that the majority of fatal car accidents happen in a 25 mile radius from home. Driving familiar routes can make a person feel more comfortable. They’re less likely to strictly adhere to speed limits, wear their seat belts, or stop fully at stop signs and traffic lights.   

Why do car crashes happen and what is the most common cause of collisions?

The causes of fatal accidents vary, but many serious crashes can be traced back to driver behavior. Leading causes include:

  • Reckless Driving
    Collisions can happen more often when a driver is speeding. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration listed speeding as the top factor in relation to fatal car crashes. This is nothing unique to 2020. In 2019, speeding/reckless driving contributed to 17.2% of fatal motor vehicle accidents. In 2020, experts believe that people felt “safer” traveling on less crowded roads and highways, so they felt more capable of driving at higher speeds and engaging in overall risky behavior.
  • Drugs and/or Alcohol
    The other leading cause of traffic collisions with a high fatality rate is a person driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When a driver’s thinking and reflexes are impaired, they’re more likely to put themselves and others at risk. Compounded by the stress of living in a pandemic, there has been an increase in people getting behind the wheel while inebriated. In fact, by September 2020, “drunk driving fatalities increased almost five percent from the same period in 2019” despite the overall miles traveled decreasing.    
Masked woman on phone with car on tow truck in the background - why do car crashes happen?

How common are car accidents and what are the chances of dying in a car crash?

Serious accidents resulting in life-changing injuries or death are not a rare or uncommon occurrence. According to the National Safety Council, a fatal motor vehicle crash happens every 16 minutes. Referencing 2019 statistics, the organization estimates that the odds of dying in a motor-vehicle crash are shockingly high, at 1 in 107.

To do your part in reducing the risks and causes of fatal accidents, it’s essential to practice safe driving habits at all times behind the wheel. Some of the steps you can take to increase the safety of yourself and others on the road include:

  • Always wear your seatbelt
  • Adhere to speed limits and traffic laws
  • Do not drive if you have been drinking or using drugs
  • Keep yourself free of distractions, such as your cell phone

Should I get a lawyer for a car accident?

Unfortunately, no matter how rigorously you engage in safe driving practices, being on the road still leaves you vulnerable to the behaviors of other people. In most cases, obtaining the proper amount of compensation after a serious accident is not possible without hiring a skilled attorney. If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident due to another driver’s negligence, seeking the guidance of an experienced personal injury firm like Avrek Law is the first step toward receiving the compensation you deserve.

Our team has more than 50 years of combined experience resolving cases in favor of clients who were wrongly injured. Avrek Law has recovered more than $1 billion in compensation for injury victims in over 10,000 cases across the states of California, Arizona, and Nevada. We’re here to help – contact us for a free consultation to learn more!

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