Common Causes of Fatal Car Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) most recent finalized report, in 2016 there were 37,806 traffic fatalities. Texas’ roadways were some of the most significant contributors to this tragic tally, accounting for about 1/10th of all deaths – a per capita rate that is over 7000% higher than the state with the fewest fatal accidents. In the last ten years, the state of Texas has reported 17,410 fatal crashes with 18,742 fatalities. Not one over the past ten years has had less than 1,500 deaths, with two years approaching 2,000 deaths. While some reports indicate slight year-over-year improvement, the overarching trend shows an increase in the number of fatal car accidents.

There are important factors to understand related to the common causes of fatalities in accidents. First, there are the circumstantial causes, including driver error and negligence, mechanical failure, or environmental conditions. Second, there are the deadly injuries: impact injuries, those that are severe enough to cause death due to near-immediate organ or system shutdown in the body; and longer-term injuries, also stemming from the impact but taking days, weeks, or months for the victim to pass away from those injuries. It can be very painful to read and learn about the dire circumstances and trauma connected to fatal car accidents. However, it is valuable to be armed with this information when you or a loved one have experienced a deadly accident. Always know that help is available to you when facing these challenges, and you are not alone.

Driver Error and Negligence

The leading cause of traffic fatalities in the US each year is driver negligence, however, the type of negligence that is most destructive changes over the years. For example, in 2016, distraction-related deaths decreased by 2.2%, while speeding-related fatalities increased by 4% nationally. Many factors impact these changes in any given area, from driver awareness campaigns to infrastructure and policing adjustments, to population changes. Regardless of the macro-level shifts that may occur in a community or region, fatal accidents are very personal and specific to those involved. There are ways that we can all be safer drivers, but we are still guaranteed devastating accidents will occur, with casualties in the thousands in the years to come.

Most Common Examples of Driver Error and Negligence:

Speeding – of 2016’s 3,797 fatal accidents in Texas, 1,076 of them were caused by speeding. The state’s fatality figure represents over 10% of the nation’s car collision deaths, although the population of Texas represents only 8.64% of the total national population.

Drunk Driving – highest cause of death nationally in 2016

Drowsy Driving – particularly dangerous with long-haul 18 wheeler trucking

Distracted Driving – texting or checking phone, eating while driving, attending to kids, pets or other passengers in the car, adjusting radio or GPS, etc.

Failure to Keep in Proper Lane – the leading cause of Texas fatal car accidents in 2015.

Failure to Wear a Seatbelt – related fatalities increased by 4.6% in 2016.

Running Red Lights – more information on this pervasive danger here.

Speeding and drunk driving are consistently the top causes of accidents. Both are avoidable! Practice safe motor vehicle operation in your own life, encourage your friends and family to do the same, and if you are harmed by the choices of another driver who took these deadly actions, remember you are entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering.

Vehicle Malfunction

Apart from driver negligence and error on the road, the vehicles they are operating can be independently dangerous. Vehicle malfunction is a serious contributor to road hazards. There are a few ways to allocate liability for vehicle malfunction after a crash. The source of the malfunction could be related to the construction of the vehicle, so the manufacturer may be liable for a defective product, or the malfunction may have been caused by improper or neglectful care and maintenance, adding to the liability of the vehicle’s owner. Common mechanical failures that may be the fault of the vehicle owner include:

Windshield Wipers – failure to replace or maintain wipers can severely impair visibility and cause extremely unsafe driving.

Headlights and Taillight – failure to replace burned out bulbs diminishes a driver’s ability to communicate with other drivers using his or her vehicle.

Steering and Suspension – failure to complete routine maintenance checking the health of your car’s systems can result in loss of control

Compromised Tires – failure to maintain well-kept tires can lead to wear and patching that results in dangerous blowouts.

Brakes – failure to check brakes for worn pads, disks and lines, and functioning antilock brake system (ABS) can result in terrible rear-end collisions, the most notorious for whiplash and other neck and spine injuries.

Dangerous Road Conditions

Texas contains some of the highest speed limits in the world, and some of the most dangerous highways. Dangerous road conditions are major contributors to deadly road accidents, and these factors compound the risks posed by negligent drivers or less-than-roadworthy vehicles.

Road construction can result in confusing signage and lane re-routing, causing drivers to swerve or force them to react with too little time. Additionally, bumpy, uneven pavement, visual clutter and confusion, and unfinished surfaces can divide drivers’ attention between too many stimuli to proceed with full caution. Even beyond these infrastructure complications, construction sites often have workers walking or moving around the site, putting them right in harm’s way. This deadly accident on I-35 is an example of multiple risk factors causing tragic results.

Bad weather is another dangerous road condition to add to the mix. Precipitation in the form of rain, snow, hail, and sleet can contribute to slippery roadways, limit visibility, cause dangerous flooding and other complications for any driver on the road. Even navigating the roads in the dark of night or squinting through bright sunlight can add risk to a journey in the car. The hours of the day with the highest crash rates are consistently dark hours.

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 Serious Injuries with Deadly Results

NHTSA manages the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a documentation of data related to deaths in motor vehicle crashes. According to FARS statistical methodology, vehicular accident fatalities are divided into measurables that include: those occurring within 30 mins of impact, between 0.5 and 1.5 hours of impact, and within 24 hours of impact.

0.5 hours (immediate) – 46% of fatalities – mostly the result of injury to the brain, spinal cord, heart or major blood vessels

0.5-1.5 hours (early) – 24% of fatalities – often due to severe blood loss, major internal hemorrhage

Within 24 Hours – 90% of fatalities – frequently caused by infection, multiple organ failure

(There is another spike in fatalities 3-4 weeks post-accident, typically related to the same injuries as above as well as complications after surgery)

There is debate within the scientific community about the best way in which to approach the categorization and assessment of these statistical distributions. Much of the debate and related research is tied to life-saving efforts utilizing modern technology to relay crash scene information to the receiving emergency room. Improving understanding, communication, and process to save lives in these extremely tenuous situations is difficult work, but the studies being done to pinpoint peak danger-of-death times post-collision will provide valuable understanding and insight to emergency medical service work.

What to do After an Accident Involving Fatalities

Immediately after witnessing or surviving a serious accident, the first thing to do is always call 911 for an appropriate emergency response to the scene. Acting quickly to help injured or unconscious individuals at the accident location can truly make the difference between life and death – especially with injuries related to blood loss, head, neck and spine trauma. Cooperate with emergency responders to effectively care for people and property. Document the scene as much as you can while remaining safe. Take photos, take down ID information of others involved, note insurance details and record license plates of all vehicles. Once you are clear to do so, safely depart the scene. Take care of yourself and seek medical examination and guidance to treat your injuries and begin a recovery treatment plan. As soon as possible, call Thompson Law for legal guidance and assistance on the best steps to take after an accident for your most successful claim and case outcome.


As leaders in the Dallas – Fort Worth personal injury space, Ryan Thompson and his team at Thompson Law have unfortunately seen many cases of tragic and fatal accidents. Lion Law’s exceptional litigators and legal experts are extremely dedicated to fighting for justice and rightful compensation for the victims after these devastating incidents occur. Working with Thompson Law is designed to be the most streamlined process possible. We truly care about winning you and your loved ones the best outcome and taking excellent care of you along the way. Fatal car accidents are some of the most heartbreaking life events, and your pain and suffering after experiencing a loss matters. You deserve care and you deserve justice.

If you or someone you love needs help after a serious or fatal car accident, reach out to us anytime 24/7 at 844-308-8180 our caring and experienced team is standing by to answer your questions and get to work on your claim.

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