ambulance responds to a fatal car accident | Coplan and Crane

What Causes the Most Fatal Car Accidents?

July 19, 2022

The Chicago car accident lawyers at Coplan + Crane understand the emotional and financial devastation that a fatal car crash can inflict on the families of victims. If you lost a loved one in a fatal wreck, our attorneys will fight diligently to help your family move forward after your loss.

While the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that car accidents are down overall, it also reports that fatal car accidents are on the rise. According to the NHTSA’s latest data (released in March 2022), the total number of fatal car accidents increased by 6.8% in 2020, and the rate of fatal accidents per 100 million vehicle miles traveled increased by 21% to the highest number since 2007. 

Why is this the case? The NHTSA points to three factors that it says are primarily responsible for the rising number of traffic fatalities in the U.S.: 

“In 45% of fatal crashes, the drivers of passenger vehicles were engaged in at least one of the following risky behaviors: speeding, alcohol impairment, or not wearing a seat belt.”

The NHTSA reports that speeding-related fatalities were up 17% in 2020, while fatal accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers and unrestrained vehicle occupants were both up 14% compared to 2019.

Failure to Wear a Seat Belt is the Leading Cause of Car Accident Fatalities

According to the NHTSA, being “unrestrained” was a factor in 26% of all fatal car accidents in 2020. This makes failure to wear a seat belt the single most common cause of car accident fatalities. The NHTSA’s data do not distinguish between front seat and back seat passengers, nor do the data indicate whether restraint-related fatality rates are lower in states that mandate seat belt use (like Illinois) than in those that do not.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “[s]eat belts dramatically reduce risk of death and serious injury.” The CDC goes on to state that, “[a]mong drivers and front-seat passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%, and cut the risk of serious injury by 50%.” Many other government agencies and safety organizations promote seat belt use as well, and the NHTSA’s data certainly seem to make clear that wearing a seat belt is one of the best things drivers and passengers can do to protect themselves in the event of a serious car accident. 

Alcohol Impairment is a Factor in More Than One Out of Every Five Fatal Car Accidents

The NHTSA’s data indicate that alcohol impairment is the second most common factor in fatal car accidents. In 2020, 21% of all fatal car accidents involved alcohol impairment; and, in 8.5% of fatal accidents, alcohol impairment was the only behavioral factor involved. The CDC helps put these percentages into perspective: 

“Every day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This is one death every 50 minutes.”

Fatal car accidents involving alcohol impairment are 100% preventable. There is no excuse for anyone to get behind the wheel after having too much to drink. Yet, as the data show, drunk driving accidents remain far too common. When drunk drivers cause fatal accidents, the victims’ families can sue for financial compensation, and at Coplan + Crane our Chicago car accident lawyers have significant experience handling these tragic cases on behalf of grieving families in Illinois.

Speeding is the Third Most Common Cause of Car Accident Fatalities

Families can also sue for financial compensation in cases involving fatal car accidents caused by speeding. According to the NHTSA, excessive speed was a factor in 19% of all fatal car accidents in 2020. This equates to roughly 20 fatal speeding-involved car accidents in the United States every single day. As the NHTSA explains, speeding increases a driver’s risk of causing a fatal accident in several ways:

  • “Greater potential for loss of vehicle control;”
  • “Reduced effectiveness of occupant protection equipment;”
  • “Increased stopping distance after the driver perceives a danger;” and,
  • “Increased degree of crash severity leading to more severe injuries.”

While speeding most often involves exceeding the posted speed limit, it can also involve driving too fast for the present road, traffic, or weather conditions. For example, when it snows in Illinois, drivers need to slow down to stay safe. Unfortunately, far too many drivers either don’t understand the risks of driving too fast or simply ignore them. In either scenario, drivers who put others in harm’s way can—and should—be held fully accountable for the consequences of their mistakes.  

Speak with a Chicago Car Accident Lawyer at Coplan + Crane

Our firm helps families file wrongful death claims after fatal car accidents in Illinois. If you have lost a loved one, we offer our sincere condolences, and we strongly encourage you to speak with one of our Chicago car accident lawyers about your family’s legal rights. You may be able to pursue damages for funeral expenses, lost income, and other end-of-life costs in a wrongful death claim. Although no monetary award can make up for your terrible loss, compensation in a wrongful death case can help your family overcome undue economic struggles during this difficult time.

See our results

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call (708) 358-8080 or tell us how we can reach you online now.