What are the Leading Causes of Fatal Car Accidents?

What are the Leading Causes of Fatal Car Accidents?A recent press release by the Missouri Department of Transportation found that fatal traffic accidents increased by 12% in 2020 – the largest number of traffic fatalities since 2017.

According to MODOT, a great percentage of these deaths could have been prevented. Missouri State Highway Patrol Public Information and Education Director, Cpt. John Hotz, said that “Over 90% of these crashes were the result of someone simply making a poor decision, primarily: driving too fast, driving distracted or driving impaired. Many of those killed were not wearing a seat belt."

In response to these numbers, Missouri is implementing the Show-Me Zero, Driving Missouri Toward Safer Roads plan. The new highway safety plan targets four specific areas of focus to reduce fatal accidents:

  • Occupant protection (seat belts, car seats and helmets)
  • Distracted driving
  • Speed and aggressive driving
  • Impaired driving

Today, we want to look at a few of those areas – plus a few more – that can help reduce traffic fatalities.

Failure to wear a seat belt

Under the law in Missouri, you are required to wear a seat belt, and drivers can be held responsible for any passenger under the age of 16 who is not wearing one. That means if you get into a crash and a passenger is not wearing a seat belt, you could be named as a liable party in a wrongful death lawsuit by the victim’s family.

The problem is that the penalties for not wearing a seat belt are low: only a $10 fine. Failing to properly restrain a child in a booster or car seat may result in slightly larger fines, but there are no other penalties – provided no one is hurt. In the event of a fatal crash, the driver could face criminal charges if a child passenger is not properly restrained.

Distracted driving

Fatalities and accidents caused by distracted driving have increased greatly since the introduction of smartphones. However, there are many other distractions, like eating, rubbernecking, and grooming. Even changing the radio can be a distraction. The true number of fatal car accidents caused by distracted driving is yet to be determined.


According to the NHTSA, speeding is involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle-related deaths. Cars are meant to get to places quickly but some drivers take this far too literally. There are many reasons a driver can be driving too fast for road conditions. It is always best to follow all posted speed signs and to reduce speed during inclement weather. Drivers should always go with the flow of traffic.

Driving under the influence

Aside from distracted driving, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is one of the biggest causes of fatal car accidents. In 2018, drunk driving killed 240 people in Missouri, accounting for 26.1% of all fatal accidents in the state that year. Driving under the influence can also mean driving while on both prescription or illicit substances that can impair your driving.

Swerving or avoiding hazards

The road can be unpredictable at times and hazards may suddenly present themselves. It could be an object falling off of a truck in front of you, or an animal that runs off into the road. This may cause a driver to swerve, which can then cause an accident. Combined with a slick road or high winds, this can end in catastrophe.

Reckless or careless driving

There is a difference between reckless and careless driving. Reckless driving involves a complete disregard for others on the road and the rules of the road. An example of this would be if a car is driving in the opposite direction of traffic, or driving double the speed limit in a school zone. Careless driving covers actions that can either be accidental or unintentional. It is important to pay attention at all times when driving.

Failure to obey or yield

It has been found that four percent of fatal accidents were caused by failure to obey. When a driver does not obey traffic signs and signals it can lead to fatal accidents. Failure to yield is another catastrophic mistake that results in seven percent of fatal crashes each year. A failure to yield is when a driver does not yield the right of way, most commonly seen at intersections and areas with four-way stops.

Fatigued driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three percent of fatal car accidents are attributed to drowsy driving. These accidents are caused by a person falling asleep or nodding off while driving. A person may also be so fatigued that they cannot make the proper driving decisions. Drowsy driving is similar to driving while under the influence, and drivers who are overtired should refrain from driving.

The loss of a loved one is one of the hardest things anyone will ever face in their life. When the loss comes unexpectedly like during a car accident, it can leave the family asking questions. At The Hayden Law Firm, we strive to hold the at-fault party accountable for the actions that led to the loss of your loved one.

Contact a skilled lawyer at The Hayden Law Firm

If your loved one was killed in a car accident you may be able to file a wrongful death claim, depending on the circumstances of the crash. A compassionate attorney at The Hayden Law Firm can advise you regarding your eligibility and next steps. Contact us today to find out how we can help you. We serve the greater St Louis area and Illinois. Call us today at 314-480-3100 to schedule a free, no-risk consultation. You can also complete our online contact form.

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