What Are the Most Common Causes of Fatal Car Accidents in California?

A single red rose on a gravestone in a cemetery.California falls just behind Texas in the number of fatal car accidents per year. The causes of these fatal accidents vary, but there are some causes that are more common than others.

Below, we discuss the most common causes of fatal car crashes in California, including speeding and impaired driving.

If you lost a loved one in a fatal car crash, call our Sacramento auto accident lawyers today. Our attorneys are prepared to help you recover compensation for funeral and burial expenses as well as other damages you suffered. The consultation is free and there are no fees while we work on your case.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of traffic fatalities due to its impact on drivers’ attention and reaction times.

There are three major ways distracted driving can affect drivers, resulting in potentially catastrophic consequences. They are as follows:

  1. Visual distractions – when the driver takes his or her eyes off the road.
  2. Manual distractions – when a driver takes his or her hands off the steering wheel.
  3. Cognitive distractions – when a driver takes his or her mind off the task of driving.

Although using a cellphone is one of the main causes of distracted driving, there are other activities drivers may engage in that are just as distracting. This includes things like:

  • Daydreaming
  • Looking at a GPS
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Checking on children in the backseat
  • Adjusting in-car entertainment systems

When drivers take their focus away from the task at hand, they are not fully aware of their surroundings, the actions of other drivers, potential hazards, pedestrians or changing traffic conditions.

Impaired Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol causes a significant amount of traffic deaths in California. This is because drugs and alcohol severely impair the following driving functions:

  • Judgment – impaired drivers may underestimate risks, overestimate their abilities and make poor choices on the road, such as misjudging distances.
  • Coordination and motor skills – a driver’s physical abilities like coordination, reflexes and other motor skills are impaired, resulting in difficulties steering, controlling a vehicle and responding promptly to unexpected situations.
  • Vision and perception – impaired drivers may experience blurred vision, reduced peripheral vision or difficulty focusing, compromising their ability to detect hazards or react appropriately.

Not only do drugs and alcohol cause impairment, but they also instill a sense of invincibility in some drivers. This leads impaired drivers to engage in certain risky behaviors, like excessive speeding.

After a certain time, alcohol and drugs also begin to affect energy levels, causing fatigue and drowsiness, which also negatively impact judgment, motor skills and the senses.

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is a major contributor to fatal motor vehicle accidents.

According to Section 23103 of the California Vehicle Code, a person who drives a vehicle on a highway in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

For a driver to be liable for reckless driving, the following factors must be considered:

  • Knowledge of potential risks – the person should have been aware of the risks associated with his or her actions.
  • Conscious decision making – knowing the risks, he or she should have made a conscious decision to engage in the behavior.
  • Disregard for safety – there was a clear demonstration of indifference toward the potential harm caused by the behavior.
  • Deviation from reasonable conduct – the person’s actions went beyond mere ordinary negligence, demonstrating a level of recklessness that exceeds what is considered a reasonable action.

Things like speeding, aggressive maneuvers and increased risk-taking may all be considered reckless driving.

Drowsy Driving

Drowsiness and fatigue can cause all the same impairments as drugs and alcohol.

When drivers are drowsy, their level of alertness is significantly decreased. Fatigue affects cognitive function and slows down reaction times. This makes it more difficult for drivers to respond to unexpected situations in time to avoid a collision. An unexpected situation can be a vehicle suddenly changing lanes or pedestrians crossing the road. Slower reaction times increase the likelihood of collisions and reduce the driver’s ability to take evasive action to avoid accidents.

Fatigue also impairs a driver’s ability to maintain focus on the road. Drowsy drivers may experience more difficulty keeping their eyes open, maintaining a steady gaze or being aware of their surroundings.

When severe fatigue kicks in, a driver may also experience episodes of microsleep. This occurs when someone falls asleep involuntarily, even if their eyes are open. Microsleep episodes can last several seconds, which is enough time to lose control of a vehicle and drift into oncoming traffic.

Poor Road Conditions

There are various ways poor road conditions may cause fatal traffic accidents.

First, poor visibility due to weather or other adverse events can significantly increase the likelihood of a collision, especially one that results in a fatality. Things like fog, rain, snow and wildfire smoke can severely impact visibility.

Inclement weather can still have some deadly consequences for drivers, as rain and snow will leave roads slick. Snow can also cause black ice, which may be deadly to drivers if an accident occurs.

Construction zones also pose risks on the road, especially if construction is not safely contained.

Inadequate traffic control or lack of guardrails may also lead to fatal car accidents.

Call an Experienced Attorney

If you lost a loved one in a deadly motor vehicle accident, you may be eligible for compensation.

Call the Arnold Law Firm today to discuss your claim during a free consultation. Our attorneys have decades of experience helping accident victims recover the compensation they need for things like funeral and burial costs.

No upfront fees. Call 916-777-7777 today.