The Main Causes of Car Accidents in Alabama – and How to Prevent Them

Car accidents are common in Alabama. Nationally, our state ranks in the top ten for fatal accidents per capita. Worse, the number of fatal accidents has increased over the past three years.

But there is good news. By understanding the causes of car accidents, we can learn to avoid them. This article will discuss the main causes of car accidents and provide tips on preventing them.  

The Three Main Causes of Car Accidents

Car accidents happen in various ways. However, these causes can be grouped into categories. The leading causes of accidents are

  • Road hazards, 
  • Mechanical malfunctions, and
  • Driver error. 

Let’s look at each of these three categories.

How Road Hazards Cause Car Accidents

When we get behind the wheel, we usually assume that the road we’re driving on is safe. But this is not always the case. Road defects play a role in about one-third of car crashes. There are many dangerous road defects.

Debris.  Trash, leaves, construction materials, and other items in the road can cause cars to skid or drivers to swerve.

Defective design. Roads must be properly designed to be safe. Roads that lack proper drainage or guardrails or that have unnecessarily dangerous curves or uneven shoulders can lead to car crashes. Improper lighting and signage also fall under the design category. 

Inadequate maintenance. Roads must be maintained. If they aren’t, hazards like potholes and cracks can appear. Failure to keep lane markers properly painted can also be an issue.

If the road where your automobile accident happened was unsafe, you may have a claim against the government that owns the road, the company responsible for maintenance, or others. Your Alabama personal injury attorney can tell you more about who might be responsible for your injuries.    

How Mechanical Defects Cause Car Accidents

We trust our cars to operate properly. However, cars do sometimes malfunction. Most vehicle failures involve issues with the tires, brakes, or steering mechanisms. Although car defects play a role in just two percent of all crashes, because these failures are often unexpected, these accidents can have major consequences.

If vehicle defects contributed to your accident, you may have a claim against the manufacturer as well as other drivers. Your Birmingham accident lawyer can tell you if this is the case. 

How Driver Errors Cause Car Accidents

While road defects and mechanical failures are important factors in many car crashes, the vast majority of crashes –  over 90% –  are caused by driver error. Generally, these errors can be grouped into the following categories: impairment, performance errors, and distractions.


Impaired drivers are those who get behind the wheel while they are unable to think clearly. Perhaps the most common example of impaired driving is drunk driving, but this category also includes less obvious impairments. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “drowsy drivers” are responsible for more than 300,000 accidents each year. Driving while experiencing strong emotions also increases the likelihood of an accident.

Performance Errors

When we think about accidents caused by driver error, these are the mistakes that usually come to mind. This category includes actions such as

  • Failing to yield,
  • Running a red light or stop sign,
  • Speeding,
  • Making an improper lane change,
  • Failure to signal a lane change, and
  • Following too closely.

It’s easy to see why these actions cause accidents. Running a red light creates danger for those who are moving through the intersection in the opposite direction. Following another car too closely reduces the amount of time and space that a driver has to react to sudden changes made by the car in front.  


Driving requires our full attention, so distracted driving is particularly dangerous. Distractions come in three forms.

Visual distractions are actions that take a driver’s eyes off the road. This can include looking at your phone, a GPS device, backseat passengers, an accident, or the landscape.

Manual distractions take the driver’s hands off the wheel. Drinking, eating, applying makeup, texting, and reaching for objects are all examples of manual distractions.

Mental distractions let the driver’s mind drift away from the task of driving. Daydreaming, talking to others, and even singing along to the radio can all shift a driver’s mental focus.

How You Can Prevent Car Accidents

While car accidents have many causes, the good news is that you can do things to protect yourself, your loved ones, and other drivers. Here are some tips.

Tips to Prevent Accidents Due to Road Issues

While drivers have very little control over road conditions, most road defects are fairly easy to see. If you see a pothole or other road hazard, avoid it if you can. (Don’t swerve unnecessarily, though.) If you can’t avoid the danger, slow down as much as possible.

Tips to Prevent Accidents Due to Mechanical Failure

Knowing about a defect before you get behind the wheel is the best protection against mechanical issues. Take your car in for all scheduled maintenance appointments. Your mechanic might see the beginning signs of a potential problem. They can also tell you about any recalls issued by your car’s manufacturer. (You can look for vehicle recalls yourself on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s official website.)

Tips to Prevent Accidents Due to Driver Error

Driver errors cause most accidents, but luckily,  these accidents – especially distracted driving accidents – are also the most preventable. Here are some of the best safety tips for minimizing your errors and protecting you from other drivers’ mistakes.  

  • Avoid intoxication. NEVER drive after consuming alcohol or street drugs. Talk to your doctor about how new prescription meds might affect your driving.
  • Follow the law. Obey all signs and signals – including speed limit signs.
  • Don’t be a “drowsy driver.” Avoid driving when not fully alert. If you’re already driving and you feel sleepy, pull over to a safe area and take a quick nap or rent a hotel room for the night.
  • Don’t text and drive. NEVER use hand-held devices when driving. (It’s the law!)
  • Don’t be a distracted driver. Don’t eat, drink, or take part in other distractions while behind the wheel.
  • Be a defensive driver. Defensive drivers make a point of not only looking ahead but also regularly checking their side and rear mirrors to see what’s happening all around them. You can’t control what other drivers do, but if you pay attention you’ll have enough time to respond.
  • Stay calm. Aggressive driving is emotional driving. Emotions cause us to make mistakes behind the wheel. Don’t overreact to poor driving or rudeness.

Need Help After an Alabama Car Accident?

Whether your accident was caused by another driver’s carelessness, the government’s failure to care for the road, or a defective design, you have legal rights. If you’re looking for a Birmingham injury lawyer, please consider Collins Law, LLC. We’ll investigate the causes of your accident and work tirelessly to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. To see how we can help you, call 205-588-1411 or use our website’s online scheduling tool to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.