What are the top 3 causes of car accidents?

Car accidents are a significant source of physical, financial and emotional distress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 million people are involved in car accidents each year. Furthermore, car accidents represent the leading cause of death among teenagers. For drivers and pedestrians in both Nevada and across the United States, understanding the leading causes of car accidents is important. (Article continues below)

Top 3 Causes of Car Accidents

There are a variety of factors that contribute to car accidents in the United States, but three factors in particular lead to an outsized proportion of these potentially devastating events. Drunken driving is one of the three, given the influence of alcohol on proper brain functioning. Speeding is also among the top three factors, due to the minimal margin of error associated with high-speed driving. Distracted driving rounds out the top three causes of car accidents, based on the danger of not focusing on potential hazards while operating a motor vehicle.

Drunken driving

Drunken driving is one of the top three causes of car accidents in the United States. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, over 1.4 million drivers are arrested every year on suspicion of driving under the influence. Furthermore, MADD estimates that 300,000 incidents involving drunken driving take place on a daily basis. Here in Nevada, over 14,000 people were arrested for drunk driving in 2012 and that same year, drinking and driving accounted for 32 percent of all traffic fatalities.


Speeding, defined as violating a legal speed limit, is another major contributor to car accidents. According to the United States Department of Transportation, speeding contributes to approximately one-third of the car accidents that occur in the country. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that when speed increases from 40 to 60 miles per hour, the energy released in a collision more than doubles.

Distracted driving

Distracted driving, according to multiple reports, is well within the top three causes of car accidents and may very well represent their leading cause. In fact, the American Automobile Association suggested that distracted driving may contribute to up to 50 percent of car accidents in the country. The specific nature of distractions vary, but the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles found the following to be the most common sources of distraction for drivers:

  • Texting
  • Rubbernecking
  • Driver fatigue
  • Looking at scenery
  • Other passengers or children

The leading source of distracted behaviors, texting, presents an entrenched habit among Americans that is in direct conflict with the safety of drivers and pedestrians. Texting and the use of a handheld cellphone while driving is banned in Nevada, but it is not uncommon to see drivers engaged in such behavior. Multiple studies have found that drivers who use some type of hand-held device are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident.