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The Anatomy of a Car Accident

scientist studying the anatomy of a car accidentMore than 37,000 people die on America’s roadways each year as the result of a car accident, with an additional 2.35 million being injured or disabled. Of those who die as the result of a car accident, 1,600 are children under the age of 15, and 8,000 are between the ages of 16 and 20. Despite the fact that there are roughly 6 million car crashes in the United States each year (including everything from minor parking lot bump-ins to serious and deadly car collisions) we still know relatively little about car accidents. Although our technology continues to increase, it seems to have little effect on the number of car accidents. In fact, the largest jump in crash fatalities happened in 2015—an increase of 8 percent, and in 2016, the number rose yet again, with more than 40,000 deaths attributed to car collisions. When we drive by an accident and the cause is not readily apparent, we often dismiss the accident as being caused by an “idiot driver.”

Accident Scenes Studied to Determine Causes of Collisions

However, a landmark study, published in 2008, went through the accident scenes of 6,950 crashes to determine just what caused each accident. Much can was learned, even after the fact, by carefully studying the anatomy of a car accident, including: 

  • Prior to the crashes, more than a third of the vehicles were turning or crossing at intersections (critical pre-crash events).
  • Almost one-quarter of the vehicles involved in a car accident ran off the edge of the road.
  • About 11 percent of the vehicles involved in a car accident veered out of their lane.
  • About 12 percent of the vehicles involved in a car accident were actually stopped prior to the accident.
  • Nine percent of the drivers in these accidents lost control of their vehicle prior to the collision.

When you look at these statistics, it is reasonable to assume that lane departure warning systems, Electronic Stability Control systems and Cooperative Intersection Collision Avoidance Systems installed in all cars could drastically reduce the number of car crashes. The condition of the vehicle involved in the accident, driver-attributable errors, failure of vehicle systems, roadway design and adverse environmental conditions were all factored in to the determination of the cause of the accidents.

About 41 percent of driver errors were errors of recognition (inadequate surveillance, external distractions, internal distractions and inattention). About 34 percent of driver errors were errors of decision (driving too fast, driving aggressively), and about 10 percent of driver errors were errors of performance (improper directional control, overcompensation). Other factors included driver distractions, including having a conversation with other passengers, talking on a cell phone, texting, and fatigue.  

In cases where weather or roadway surfaces were a factor in the crash, slick roadway surfaces due to ice or debris were the most common reason for a collision, followed by driver vision obstruction. More studies are being undertaken which equip cars with sonar, multiple video cameras, sensors which track driver input, and even accelerometers.

Further Reading: Does Tensing Up Before an Accident Help or Hurt?

The Rolling Right on Red Error

One of the more common causes of car accidents is the rolling right on red error. This occurs when a driver approaches a red light, with the intention of turning right. The driver glances to the left, yet does not come to a full stop prior to turning right. Because the focus is on cars coming from the left, the driver fails to see a bicyclist or a pedestrian crossing the street, crashing into them. This mistake is made often, usually because many drivers are not aware they are legally bound to come to a complete stop prior to turning right on red, and because we are all so used to multi-tasking that we think we can do it while driving as well. The rolling right on red accounts for at least 6 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

Fatigue and Loss of Control

Fatigue is yet another common cause of car accidents; it is believed that at least 21 percent of fatal crashes occur when a driver is a bit fatigued or drowsy. Loss of control of a vehicle, accounting for 11 percent of all collisions, yet more than half of us believe we are in the top 20 percent regarding driving safety and driving skills. That belief is tested by the fact that a full five percent of us routinely take corners too fast, while another 2 percent do not slow down for water in the road—two hazards that cause a significant number of car collisions each year.

Rear-End Accidents—Entirely Preventable

And, finally, hitting the car in front of us accounts for nearly 30 percent of all car crashes. This is due to the fact that we drive too fast, tailgate, and surround ourselves with distractions inside of our vehicle. Rear-end accidents are almost always preventable—leave several car lengths between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, slow down, and get rid of distractions which take your focus off the road and other drivers. Hopefully, we will learn more and more about car accidents, making them easier to prevent.

Contact Our Experienced North Denver Car Accident Lawyers

Hull & Zimmerman - North Denver COIf you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident in Arvada, Northglenn, Westminster, Thornton, or anywhere in Colorado, do you know what to do? At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., our committed car accident lawyers are ready to fight aggressively to obtain the compensation you need to put your life back together again. Contact us at (303) 423-1770 or (866) 385-3505.

Our car accident lawyers have extensive experience representing injured accident victims in Broomfield, Arvada, Superior, Lafayette, Louisville, Erie, Brighton, Commerce City, Northglenn, Westminster, Thornton, Longmont, and throughout Colorado.



At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., we are honored to help accident victims in their time of need, and take our responsibility as personal injury lawyers incredibly seriously. We know how important it is for victims to secure the full and fair compensation they need following a serious accident, and that is why we take a hands-on, personalized approach to every case we handle.

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