What are the leading causes of car accidents in California?

Many accidents in California can be attributed to common and negligent driver behaviors, including driving while impaired, speeding and distracted driving.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of car accidents occur in Temecula and other parts of California. In 2013 alone, over 150,000 crashes that caused injuries and 2,800 fatal crashes were reported throughout the state, according to the California Highway Patrol. Tragically, reckless or negligent behaviors on the part of motorists may contribute to many of these accidents. It's critical for drivers to understand and avoid the most common of these habits, which can greatly raise the risk of accidents, injuries and fatalities.

Speeding

Speeding is a prevalent cause of severe car accidents, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Speeding can make crashes more likely by reducing a driver's effective reaction time and control over his or her vehicle. Speed-related accidents are also likelier to have catastrophic outcomes, given the large amount of energy that must be released during the crash. Nationally, almost 10,000 people were killed in these accidents in 2013. These deaths accounted for 29 percent of all accident fatalities recorded that year.

Impaired driving

Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol contribute to thousands of car crashes in California each year. For the last several years, more than one-quarter of traffic deaths in California have occurred in alcohol-related accidents, according to the Office of Traffic Safety. In 2014 alone, over 880 people lost their lives in these accidents. Drug use is also a common factor in serious accidents. In 2013, almost one out of three drivers who were killed in car crashes in California were under the influence of prescription or illegal drugs.

Distraction

Driver distraction is another widespread problem in California. The exact number of distracted driving accidents that occur in the state is unknown, since conclusively showing that distraction was a factor in an accident can be difficult. However, the OTS offers the following statistics on the prevalence of this dangerous habit:

• About 61 percent of drivers in California reported in 2014 that they had experienced at least one collision or close call with a driver who was using a cell phone.

• In 2013, authorities ticketed and convicted over 426,000 drivers for illegally using handheld cellphones while at the wheel.

• Overall, authorities believe that distraction plays a role in about 80 percent of accidents that occur in the state.

The same source notes that many forms of distraction that remain legal, such as using a hands-free cell phone, can still raise the risk of a car crash. Unfortunately, these habits may persist because many drivers do not recognize or fully appreciate the associated risk of accidents.

Holding drivers responsible

When an accident occurs due to any of these negligent behaviors, legal recourse may be available to victims or their surviving family members. A driver who is found at fault in an accident may be liable for the resulting injuries, financial losses and other damages. However, documenting the circumstances of a crash and establishing a driver's liability can be challenging. Consequently, the victims of crashes that involved any of these factors may benefit from consulting with an attorney for advice on navigating the claims process.