What are the most common causes of car accidents in California?

May 17, 2023
Barrios Machado

What are the most common causes of car accidents in California?Car accidents occur for a variety of reasons, including driver negligence, human error, and defective vehicles, among others. While accidents have a variety of causes, the effects are often the same: destruction to property, catastrophic injuries, or even death. 

In 2019, there were 3,606 car accident fatalities in California. 

The most common causes of car accidents in California are shown below.


In California, speeding is a major contributor to traffic accidents. When driving at high speeds, an accident becomes more deadly since the driver's reaction time, vehicle maneuverability, and emergency stopping distance are greatly reduced. When you're driving fast, it's more difficult to slow down or stop, so you're more likely to hit another car or a pedestrian at a higher speed, increasing the chance of serious injury or death. 

Because of the energy released at impact, speed-related accidents have a higher risk of being catastrophic.

Impaired Driving

Impairment is frequently associated with alcohol consumption, but it can also occur when drivers use prescription or illegal substances. Thousands of car accidents occur in California each year due to drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than one-quarter of traffic deaths in California have happened in alcohol-related incidents in recent years. More than 1,120 people died in these accidents in California alone in 2018 - more than any other state.

The use of drugs is also a common cause of serious accidents. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, 42% of drivers tested after a crash had drugs and/or illegal substances in their system in 2018.  


Another major issue in California is driver distraction. Because proving that distraction was a component in an accident can be challenging, the exact number of distracted driving incidents in the state is unknown. The OTS, on the other hand, provides the following data on the prevalence of this deadly habit:

  • In 2018, distracted driving was directly responsible for 9% of all road deaths across the country.
  • Distracted driving and texting/talking while driving were named by 70% of Californians as the state's major driving problems in 2019.
  • Distraction is thought to be a factor in around 80% of all accidents in the state, according to police.

Many kinds of distractions considered legal, such as eating while driving, can nonetheless increase the chance of a car accident. Unfortunately, these patterns persist because many drivers are unaware of or underestimate the risk of an accident.

Other Factors

While driver error is the most common cause of traffic accidents, some incidents are caused by circumstances beyond the driver's control. Some of these elements are:

  • Defects or breakdowns in the vehicle. A flaw in a vehicle part caused by poor maintenance or a manufacturing defect could be the cause of an accident in some situations. When a manufacturing fault causes the accident, the victim(s) might pursue a product liability claim against the vehicle or parts manufacturer.
  • Hazardous road conditions. Bad road conditions, such as potholes, oil spills, and missing signage, can all play a role in causing collisions. Road maintenance providers, such as the government or road contractors, may be held liable for car crashes caused by poor road maintenance. 

Holding at fault Drivers Liable

Victims or their surviving family members may have legal options if an accident occurs as a result of any of these careless activities. If a driver is proven to be at fault in an accident, they may be held accountable for the injuries, financial losses, and other damages that ensue. Documenting the circumstances of an incident and determining a driver's liability, on the other hand, can be difficult. As a result, victims of accidents involving any of these elements may benefit from seeking legal assistance in navigating the claims procedure.

Consult an Orange County attorney regarding car accident injury settlements

Our team of lawyers at Barrios & Machado specializes in personal injury cases, including auto accidents. If you or a loved one have been in a car accident in Orange County, call Barrios & Machado at (714) 515-9696 for a free case evaluation and to find out how we can assist.

Have Questions? Get in Touch.

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