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Driver Error and Auto Accidents


Despite efforts to improve driver safety, including graduated licenses for young adults, driver error plays a leading role in the cause of car accidents.

Driver Error & Auto Accidents

Most car accident litigation revolves around claims of negligence. That is, the defendant driver is not accused of intentionally causing the accident, but is accuses of errors or omissions in driving conduct which created an undue danger of an accidental collision. Even when a car accident is arguably intentional, due to insurance coverage issues the accident will often be characterized in litigation as resulting from negligent conduct.

Disregard of Traffic Control Devices

The failure to yield at a traffic control device - usually a stop sign, yield sign, or traffic light - can pose a significant risk to vehicles which have the right-of-way. As such accidents often involve cars striking each other in a perpendicular manner, such as in a "T-Bone Collision" where one driver crashes into the doors of the other driver's car, the risk of injury is particularly great. Even with side-wall airbags, the fact remains that most car safety devices are designed to prevent injury from a front-end collision. Seat belts do not do much to prevent sideways movement. Dashboard airbags are also not of much use, and may not even deploy from a side impact.

Failure to Yield

Beyond traffic lights, yield and stop signs, accidents relating to failure to yield often occur at unmarked intersections, entry ramps, traffic circles, and points where lanes of traffic merge. Not everybody respects the rules of right of way, or pays attention to merging traffic. It is important to exercise additional care at such points of potential danger.

Rear-End Collisions

In most jurisdictions, a driver who rear-ends another car is presumed to have caused the accident. In most cases, that presumption is correct: The driver at the rear follows too closely, or doesn't pay attention to what is going on in the roaday in front of his car, and doesn't take notice that another car has stopped or slowed in front of him until it is too late to avoid collision. In higher speed rear-end collisions involving a line of cars, such as cars stopped at a traffic light, you may see the initial collision propel the stopped cars into each other, such that three, four, or even more cars become involved.

The most common defense to a charge of negligence arising from a rear-end collision is the sudden emergency - that is, a claim that the car that was hit stopped suddenly and unexpectedly, or that something sudden and unexpected (e.g., a truck losing its load) caused that car to come to a sudden stop, rendering the collision unavoidable. Where one or more cars are able to stop in reaction to a claimed sudden emergency, it is more difficult to make this claim - "If they could stop, why couldn't you?"

Unsafe Driving

Additional factors which commonly contribute to accident include:

Dangerous Passing: Attempting to pass another vehicle on the shoulder, in a "no passing zone", where the line of vision of oncoming cars is obstructed, where oncoming traffic is dangerously close, or similar passing conduct will often contribute to car accidents.

Dangerous Turning: Attempting to turn from the wrong lane, or suddenly slowing or stopping in a traffic lane upon realizing that you are about to pass a desired intersection or exit ramp, can be extremely dangerous to other drivers.

Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road: Although sometimes it is tempting to do so in order to pass stopped traffic, and sometimes people accidentally turn the wrong way on a one-way road, it goes without saying that driving in an oncoming traffic lane can be extremely dangerous.

Reading While Driving: Attempting to read instructions, road maps, or other materials while driving a car.

Use of Electronic Devices: Attempting to change a tape or CD, dial a cellular phone, use an inappropriate entertainment device (such as trying to watch a DVD while driving), or other similar act can distract a driver from the road and increase the chance of an accident.

Vehicle Defects: Poor maintenance of a vehicle, particularly of its brakes, can contribute to accidents. Drivers are responsible to make sure that their cars are safe to drive.

Vehicle Lights: The failure to properly use turn signals, the failure to properly maintain headlights, brake lights, and signal lights, the failure to illuminate headlights.

Road Rage

There is no question but that road rage contributes to car accidents. This happens both through intentionally dangerous driving acts, such as braking suddenly in front of another car, pulling up right on another driver's bumper or even trying to tap the other driver's bumper, and also through the fact that angry drivers are more likely to make mistakes in their driving conduct. Worse, as road rage incidents often occur on highways and freeways, the accidents that result can be extremely serious, and can involve additional vehicles. If you are being victimized by an angry driver, try to find a way to remove yourself from the situation - slow down or take an exit. If the angry driver pursues you, try to pull into the parking lot of a police station or a busy business. If you are considering engaging in acts of road rage, you should also remove yourself from the situation, if necessary pulling over until you have calmed down.