What is the primary cause of a fatal motor vehicle accident?

Updated on October 21, 2021

One of the most common fears among drivers is getting into an accident. Automobile accidents can result in serious physical injuries and unfortunately, fatalities; both of which can cause a disruption in their life and the life of their families. The financial results of an automobile accident can be devastating, especially if the accident is the result of negligence. There are many things that can cause an automobile accident and unfortunately, deaths due to automobile accidents are on the rise. Many of these fatalities can be avoided by driving responsibly and paying attention to the road and your surroundings. Here are the four primary causes of fatal motor vehicle accidents

Driving While Intoxicated

Each year, there are thousands of automobile accidents caused by intoxicated drivers. These accidents leave families grief-stricken and financially devastated, which makes this one of the top causes of car accidents involving fatalities. Drinking and/or using illegal drugs impair your vision, hearing, and reaction times. When an accident happens that involves an intoxicated driver, the intoxicated driver often survives, but tragically innocent people are often killed. The legal limit for a DUI (driving under intoxication) is a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 or higher. Although the legal limit is .08, a person may still be impaired by a lower-level BAC, which means that even after only one drink; you should not get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Fortunately, the number of fatalities resulting from accidents involved intoxicated drivers has gradually decreased over recent years; however, it is critical that people continue to be educated on the dangers of driving while intoxicated. 

Distracted Driving

Driving while distracted is basically a reference to anything that takes your focus and attention away from driving, the road in front of you, and your surroundings. Texting and driving are some of the most commonly known causes of distracted driving accidents, but it’s not the only type of distracted driving. Even if you have your eyes on the road while being distracted, your reactions are going to be slower, which can lead to a fatal accident. There are three categories of distracted driving: manual, cognitive, and visual. 

  • Manual-Manual distractions are the most common types of distractions. Examples of manual distracted driving may include things such as a parent leaning over the driver’s seat in an attempt to get her children to settle down, get their seatbelt on, or handing/taking something from passengers in the back seat. Another example of manual distractions often includes eating while driving; all it takes is a split second to look down at your sandwich and before you know it an accident occurs.
  • Visual-While you are driving; there are a lot of things that must be in your field of vision. You are continually looking in the rearview mirror and the side-view mirrors and the majority of drivers have mastered this process. But what happens when you take your eyes off of the road for something else? For instance, keeping one eye on the road and using the other eye to look at the temperature control knobs or the radio to check the station, means that even though you still have an eye on the road, you do not have full focus on the road in front of you. Reading or writing texts is one of the most common causes of fatalities resulting from visual distractions. Reading a text has basically the same results as driving from one end of the street to the other end with your eyes closed. You do not have an awareness of your surroundings, when alerted to potential danger your reaction time is slowed and you do not have control over the speed of your vehicle. Your life and the life of those on the road with you depend on you waiting to read that text message when you reach your destination.
  • Cognitive-This type of distracted means that although your eyes are fully on the road ahead of you, you are comfortably seat-belted in and you have both hands on the wheel; however, your mind is somewhere else. Thinking about what to fix for dinner, the things that caused you to have a bad day at work, or even a song that is playing on the radio are all cognitive distractions that may lead to a fatal accident. If your mind is drifting to events of the day or things to come before you know it your vehicle will begin to drift as well. It is essential that while you are driving, your full focus should be on driving. 


Studies of shown that speeding may account for approximately one-third of traffic accidents and resulted in 9478 fatalities in 2019. Speeding significantly increases the risk of an accident occurring because it reduces a driver’s reaction time when encountering unexpected events while driving.  Roadways are designed for specific speed limits, so driving too fast can cause the driver to be unable to safely make lane changes, navigate turns and avoid other potential dangers on the road. A driver who is speeding is generally held legally liable for accidents that they are involved in. Exceeding the posted speed limits while you are running late may seem like a harmless, one-time event, but speeding is one of the major causes of car accident fatalities. 

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is considered to be a serious moving traffic violation, which typically involves driving a vehicle with wanton or willful disregard for the safety of property or persons. Reckless may include acts such as unsafe lane changes, drag racing, and running through traffic lights while speeding. Reckless driving can and often does cause accidents, many of which are fatal. Taking your time and staying calm if you encounter an aggressive/reckless driver may help to avoid serious accidents that are caused by carelessness. For instance, make sure you look behind you before changing lanes and if there is a reckless driver behind you or next to you, don’t attempt the lane change until they are out of your path. Even if there seems to be no other traffic on the road and you’re in a hurry, be mindful of the risks and slow down.

Even a minor car accident can be scary, stressful, and overwhelming, but losing a loved one in an automobile accident is a needless and long road to grief, financial struggles, and an adjustment to life without them. If you have lost a loved one to an automobile accident due to negligence, it is essential that you talk with an attorney and file a wrongful death claim as soon as possible after the accident. An attorney cannot bring back your loved one; however, with their assistance, you may be compensated for the financial hardships caused by the accident.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.