Accident Law Information & Help
accident-law

Causes of Accidents

Many factors result in accidents, and sometimes multiple causes contribute to a single accident. Factors include the following:

  • Driver distraction, including fiddling with technical devices as noted previously, talking with passengers, eating or grooming in the vehicle, dealing with children or pets in the back seat, or attempting to retrieve dropped items.
  • Driver impairment by tiredness, illness, alcohol or other drugs, both legal and illegal. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is an organization made up of the families of the dead who were killed in auto accidents caused by drunk drivers.
  • Mechanical failure, including flat tires or tires blowing out, brake failure, axle failure, steering mechanism failure.
  • Road conditions, including foreign obstacles or substances on the road surface; rain, ice, or snow making the roads slick; road damage including pot holes.
  • Speed exceeding safe conditions, such as the speed for which the road was designed, the road condition, the weather, the speed of surrounding motorists, and so on.
  • Road design and layout. Some roads are notorious for being accident “black spots” for a whole variety of reasons, many subtle and not necessarily immediately obvious. These include alignment, visibility, camber and surface conditions, road markings, etc. Finding out the causes for a repeated series of accidents on the same stretch of road is becoming a science in itself.

Many authorities emphasise speed as an inherent cause of accidents in itself, though most experts agree that speed alone is rarely a prime cause of accidents, though naturally a mis-application of speed can be a contributing factor, and higher speed in an accident resulting from whatever cause is more likely to have serious consequences. Critics of the “speed kills” mentality claim that this approach ignores the complex factors that are involved in accidents, and argue that it amounts to little more than a simplistic “quick fix” or political solution that does nothing to address the true Causes of Accidents. Proponents state that going slower at least can do no harm, and that physics is on their side, since the outcome of an accident largely depends on the energy dissipated in a crash, and that energy rises with the square of velocity, according to the equation E = ½ ·m·v², where E is the kinetic energy, m is the mass, and v is the velocity. The first person who died in a petrol engined car accident, Bridget Driscoll, was killed by a car driving only 4 miles/h (6.5 km/h).

Attempts to force automobile manufacturers to limit the top speed of vehicles has so far been resisted by both the manufacturers and governments themselves. Partly this is because the automobile manufacturers have substantial political lobbying power and speed and performance are powerful marketing tools, and partly because it is easy to show that such measures are unlikely to have a significant effect on the road toll, and might then force governments to seriously address the more complex Causes of Accidents.

Rubbernecking

Rubbernecking is where drivers slow down to look at accidents or anything out of the ordinary on the highway. Events ranging from gruesome auto accidents to a police car stopped on the shoulder can cause traffic jams on both sides of the road, even if the roadway has been cleared.

 

Although caution is advised when there is unexpected activity on the side of a road, a car with a flat tire on the side of a highway often causes as much slow down as a real accident would due to rubbernecking. The slowdown in traffic persists even after the accident scene has been cleared if traffic is dense. Traffic experts call this phenomenon a Phantom Accident. Often this behavior causes additional and sometimes more serious accidents among the rubberneckers.

 

Legal Issues with Auto Accidents

Auto Accidents often carry legal consequences in proportion to the severity of the accident. Nearly all Common Law jurisdictions impose some kind of requirement that parties involved in a collision (even with only stationary property) must stop at the scene, and exchange insurance or identification information or summon the police. Failing to obey this requirement is the crime of hit and run.

 

Parties involved in an accident may face criminal liability, civil liability, or both. Usually, the state starts a prosecution only if someone is severely injured or killed, or if one of the drivers involved was clearly intoxicated or otherwise impaired at the time the accident occurred. Charges might include driving under the influence of alcohol, assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, or murder; penalties range from fines to jail time to prison time to death.

 

As for civil liability, Automobile Accident Personal Injury Lawsuits have become the most common type of tort. Because these cases have been litigated often in the developed First World nations, the legal questions usually have been answered in prior judgments. So, the courts most usually decide solely the factual questions of who is at fault, and how much they (or their insurer) must pay out in damages to the injured plaintiff.

 

Another element of civil liability involves the administrative fines or license suspension/revocation that may be imposed by a civil authority when a driver has violated the rules of the road and thus the terms of a driver’s license. Such complaint may be filed by a police officer or sometimes by other witnesses of an incident.

 

Auto Accident Prevention

Although many accidents are caused by behavior that is difficult to alter, by mechanical failure, or by road conditions, some technical solutions are becoming more widely available to prevent accidents:

 

  • Proximity Monitors: These would automatically detect how close you were traveling to the vehicle in front of you and automatically adjust your vehicle’s acceleration to prevent you from getting closer than you can safely stop at your current speed.
  • Sobriety Detectors: These locks prevent the ignition key from working if the driver breathes into one and is shown to have consumed alcohol.
  • Drifting Monitors: These devices monitor how close a vehicle is traveling to lane markers and, if it starts to drift toward or over the markers without the turn signal being activated, sounds an alarm.

 

In most developed countries, young (under 25 years old) male drivers have been shown to be by far the most likely to be involved in a auto accident, and this has become an area of focus in recent times. Reasons suggested for this prevalence include inexperience combined with over-confidence, peer pressure, showing off, and even neurological development arguments. In addition most serious accidents occur at night and when the vehicle has multiple occupants. This has led to some discussion of the following proposals:

 

  • A “curfew” imposed on young drivers to prevent them driving at night.
  • Requiring an experienced supervisor to chaperone the less experienced driver.
  • Forbidding the carrying of passengers.
  • Zero alcohol tolerance.
  • Compulsory advanced driving courses.
  • Requiring a sign placed on the back of the vehicle to notify other drivers of a less-experienced individual in the driver’s seat.

 

Some countries or states have already implemented some of these, but so far no consensus to a total solution has been reached. It should be noted that this prevalence has long been noted by insurance companies, and premiums reflect that; however, very high premiums for young male drivers does not seem to have had a significant impact on the accident statistics, suggesting that these drivers simply accept the high premiums as part of the “on road” costs of mobility.

 

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