Top 10 Causes of Car Accidents in Australia
Car accidents are common in Australia due to a range of reasons, including reckless driving, human error, drink driving, wrong way driving, street racing, running a stop sign or red light, distracted drivers, road rage and more.
In 2019-2020, road incidents caused 62,700 hospitalisations and 1,300 deaths. These figures only cover injury-causing or fatal car accidents. However, a majority of car accidents cause vehicle damage but don’t result in passenger injuries.
It is essential to understand the most common causes of motor vehicle and traffic accidents so that you can take proper precautions and avoid the situations and conditions that could lead to a car crash. Injuries sustained in a car accident can take a long time to heal and have serious impacts on your life.
Here are the 10 most common causes of car accidents in Australia.
Speeding is a leading cause of car accidents.
Speeding can involve travelling at high speed or faster than the posted limits on the given road. However, it can also mean driving faster than conditions allow, making it difficult to reduce speed to stop at stop signs or at a red light. If other factors are at play, such as bad weather, poor visibility due to fog or slippery roads because of heavy rain, even driving the posted speed limit could prove dangerous and put you at risk. Reckless driving and not obeying speed limits is one of the most common causes of car accidents and fatal accidents in most states.
2. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of major accidents and road fatalities. Distracted driving often involves a driver using a mobile device while driving their car or vehicle. Drivers who look at their screens may miss road signs, make unsafe lane changes or improper turns, turn the wrong way down a street or not be able to react to other drivers. A vehicle can travel 28 metres while a distracted driver is looking down at a phone screen for two seconds while driving at 50 km/h.
And, though the use of cell phones is a common cause of car accidents, road drivers may also get distracted by passengers (especially children), eating or drinking, tuning their radio, or looking for an item in their car.
3. Drugs and Alcohol (Impaired Driving)
Impaired driving is a common cause of serious car accidents and road fatalities. Alcohol and drugs can slow a driver’s reaction time, impair their decision-making abilities and make them prone to more aggressive behaviours when behind the wheel. Impaired driving may not be as common as speeding, but it is comparable to speeding in terms of the number of accidents it causes. The blood alcohol concentration legal limit for driving in Australia is 0.05%. There are also laws prohibiting driving with drugs in a driver’s system or whilst impaired by drugs.
It is possible for a driver to fall asleep due to extreme fatigue while driving and lose control of their vehicle which can result in a serious car accident. Driver fatigue can slow reaction times, so a driver may not be able to stop at stop signs or turn in time to avoid an accident. Fatigue is common on long road trips and night driving, but it can also be due to a busy schedule, strenuous physical activity, or a general lack of sleep. If you are feeling sleepy while driving, it’s best to stop your vehicle and take a nap or drink a caffeinated beverage.
5. Ignoring Traffic Signs and Signals
You expect other drivers to obey traffic signals and rules, such as the speed limit, stop signs or red lights. Red means stop and you are legally required to slow for yellow lights and stop for red. However, it is quite common to see drivers run a red light, fail to drive in the proper lane or speed through traffic lights or a stop sign. Running red lights and ignoring traffic signals is often combined with other car accident causes. For example, high speeds, impaired driving, inexperience, human error or distracted driving due to mobile phone use can cause a driver to miss critical traffic signals, run stop signs and cause traffic accidents.
6. Vehicle Defects or Disrepair
If a vehicle is not properly maintained, it may not be able to stop in time, steer accurately, or accelerate when needed, making it more prone to causing or being involved in car accidents. The engine may cut out on a busy road, causing the car to stop suddenly or unexpectedly. If turn signals aren’t working, other drivers won’t be notified of your desire to turn. Though vehicle design defects can cause a loss of control or unexpected stopping, poorly maintained vehicles are a more common cause of accidents.
7. Poor Visibility
Poor visibility can be due to vehicle issues (malfunctioning or broken lights) and weather events like high winds blowing dust over the road, heavy rains, fog or sun obscuring vision and can lead to road accidents. Poor visibility can make it difficult to see what other drivers are doing, such as turning or changing lanes. These weather conditions can make driving dangerous and require a driver to either slow down or wait until visibility improves before it is safe to continue driving. Poor visibility can also be caused by other drivers, for example using high beams when there is oncoming traffic.
8. Poor Road Conditions
Local governments try their best to maintain the safety of our roads, however roads can become worn over time. Weather events, wind, wet weather and poorly maintained roads can create difficult driving conditions for drivers. As with poor visibility, a driver needs to adjust speeds and increase the following distance from other vehicles to avoid potential accident situations. If conditions are too harsh, it is best to simply pull off the road and wait in a safe place for the weather to improve or until the storm passes.
9. Collisions with Animals
Animal crossings are a common cause of car accidents on rural roads. Animals can unexpectedly cross your path when you are driving. Larger animals can cause damage to your vehicle during a collision, and you can make matters worse by swerving to avoid them and losing control, causing you to unexpectedly change lanes into oncoming traffic. Kangaroos are the most common animals involved in serious collisions with vehicles in Australia.
10. Failure to Wear a Seatbelt
Seatbelt usage may not cause accidents but it can prevent you from suffering a serious injury. People who do not wear this safety device are more likely to be at risk of being injured during a car accident. Seatbelt use can cut the risk of fatality by 50% if you are involved in a car accident.
Tips for Avoiding Common Causes of Road Accidents
Some car accidents are unavoidable, but good driving habits and proper safety practices can help you avoid the most common car accident situations and help create safe roads for all drivers. Some preventative measures you can take to avoid the common causes of car accidents include:
- Obey the speed limit, maintain a safe distance, always drive in the correct lane and adjust speed for poor weather conditions. As mentioned, speeding is the most common major cause of motor vehicle accidents, traffic accidents and road fatalities, so moderating your speed and obeying posted speed limits while driving can significantly decrease the likelihood of a traffic accident.
- Avoid driving a car or getting behind the wheel when you are overly fatigued or intoxicated. Instead of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated or drowsy driving, you can look for other means of transport or a designated driver and come back to retrieve your car when you are rested or sober again.
- Maintain your vehicle. Regularly checking the tyres, brakes, steering, wheel alignment, engine, hazard lights, fluid levels and lights can reduce the chance of a malfunction while driving. Ensure your vehicles tyres have enough tread and are properly inflated reduces the risk of accident. Regular car maintenance can reduce the likelihood of being involved in car accidents or a road crash.
- Do not use mobile phones while driving a car or any other vehicle. Distracted driving is a major danger not only to yourself but also to the many drivers who are on the road with you. Also, it is illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving in Australia.
What to Do If You Are Involved in a Car Accident
Each year, thousands of road traffic deaths and car accidents occur for a range of reasons, such as reckless driving, drunk driving, aggressive driving and more. Injuries sustained in car accidents can have serious impacts on a person’s life.
You can take steps to avoid accidents or reduce the chances of becoming a car accident victim. However, some incidents are unavoidable and can result in hefty fines, serious injuries and fatal crashes. In addition to safe driving, you should also know what to do if you are involved in a road incident and what the major causes of motor vehicle accidents are.
If you have been involved in a serious accident on the road with one driver or more, the first step is to assess everyone involved for injuries and then call emergency services or the police as needed.
After ensuring everyone is safe, you should collect driver’s licences and car insurance information. You should also note any evidence at the scene that could establish fault, such as pictures of damage sustained by each car involved in the accident. It is a good idea to take photographs of the accident scene and vehicle damage. If there are independent witnesses, their contact details should be obtained.
Your car insurance company should cover vehicle damage depending on your level of insurance. You may also want to contact a motor vehicle accident or personal injury lawyer, who can ensure you get fair compensation for injuries, vehicle and property damage, and any other losses you incur as a result of the car accident.
Car accidents caused by another driver may qualify you for compensation. If you have sustained an injury during a car accident or want to learn more about the common causes of car accidents, contact the expert motor vehicle accident lawyers at Bradford Legal to have expert legal advice provided to you or to request a free consultation.