The outcome of a car accident claim or lawsuit hinges on whether you can prove the party who caused the accident was negligent. Lawyers, insurance companies, and investigators need to know why a car accident occurs to prove negligence and determine liability. Causes of car accidents vary, and sometimes accidents occur for more than one reason.
1. Distracted Driving
The FLHSMV includes any activity that takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, or your mind off driving as distracted driving. Texting and driving often tops the list of distracted driving behaviors because it is a triple threat visually, manually, and cognitively distracts drivers.
Fortunately, recent legislation in Florida and throughout the United States has reduced the number of drivers that engage in this dangerous driving behavior. However, drivers succumb to many other distractions, sometimes leading to dangerous Tampa car accidents.
Here are some examples:
- Eating snacks
- Focusing on an event outside the car, often another accident
- Brushing hair, applying makeup, and other personal grooming habits
- Adjusting vehicle features, such as A/C, radios, seats, etc.
- Reaching for an item on the floor or in the backseat
- Tending to passengers in the backseat, often children
- Arguments or heavy discussions with other passengers
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates more than 30 percent of fatal car crashes involve speeding. This statistic has trended downward in the last few years, with the NHTSA now estimating closer to 25 percent.
In either case, speeding is dangerous and potentially fatal. People exceed the posted speed limit or drive too fast for conditions for various reasons, but none of them outweigh the risk of accident and injury. High-speed car crashes have greater force upon impact, leading to more severe injuries, property damage, and a greater chance of fatality.
Drivers who speed have greater difficulty controlling their vehicles, especially if they need to make a quick maneuver to avoid another erratic driver, an animal, or another type of hazard. Additionally, speeding drivers need more distance to slow their vehicle or come to a complete stop, also making it difficult to react appropriately to busy Tampa traffic and other road or weather conditions.
3. Driving Too Slowly
Driving too slowly can be just as dangerous and just as likely to lead to a car crash as speeding. Driving slow does not always lead to fatal car accidents, but it can lead to serious car crashes that result in injury. Driving too slowly is especially dangerous on Tampa’s interstates and multi-lane roads and highways.
Slow drivers disrupt the traffic flow, sometimes causing an accident. This is especially true when slow drivers hover in the far left lane. Under Florida laws, drivers must default to the right lane on multi-lane roads and highways, using the left lanes for passing.
4. Drunk/Drugged Driving
The dangers of consuming drugs and/or alcohol before driving are well-known. Yet, drivers engage in these dangerous behaviors all the time. Tampa’s bustling nightlife makes the area especially vulnerable to drunk/drugged driving. Fortunately, accidents involving controlled substances have decreased in the last few years.
In the Tampa area, like the rest of Florida, drunk driving accidents occur at a much higher rate than drugged driving accidents. Around 6,000 crashes involving drug and/or alcohol use happen across the state each year. Several hundred of those crashes happen in and around the Tampa area.
Alcohol leads to more accidents because more people use it. However, drugged driving typically causes a higher percentage of fatalities. Alcohol and drugs both impair drivers and increase the chances of car crashes.
Although drug users consume various legal and illegal substances, cannabis use poses the most significant threat to Tampa’s roads and highways. More states are legalizing cannabis, even if only for medical use. Additionally, the stigma long associated with using cannabis is decreasing, leading more drivers to get behind the wheel after vaping, smoking, or taking edibles.
Cannabis use poses challenges for law enforcement. First, it’s difficult to measure a driver’s level of impairment in the same way as alcohol use. Second, Florida has no legal limit for use. However, the state has increased focus on preventing drugged driving. Cannabis impacts drivers differently, so police look for common signs of use such as poor coordination, poor focus, slow reactions, and struggles with memory.
5. Drowsy Driving
Driving without proper rest can be as dangerous as drunk driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—the government agency that regulates the trucking industry—has extensively studied the relationship between sleep deprivation and driving.
Their research reveals that drivers who go without 18 our of sleep face the same impairment as drunk drivers with a 0.08 breath or blood alcohol level. Drowsy and fatigued drivers react more slowly to road hazards and traffic control signals. They also have impaired vision, have difficulties accurately judging space and time, and sometimes struggle with impaired hearing.
Some groups are more prone to drowsy driving, especially if they drive against their body’s natural time clock.
- Truck drivers
- Shift workers, especially those who work the night shift or switch shifts
- Those who work two or three jobs
- Those with untreated sleep disorders
Regardless of the reason for drowsiness or fatigue, drivers who do not have the rest they need can fall asleep at the wheel or nod off for a few seconds, causing dangerous head-on collisions on Tampa’s busy roads.
6. Not Using Turn Signals
Studying turn signal use is difficult, making it an unpopular research subject. However, in 2012, scientists surveyed about 12,000 drivers and found almost half did not use their turn signals to change lanes. About 25 percent of drivers revealed they did not use turn signals to indicate a turn.
Other conclusions from the study include that about two million traffic accidents occur each year because drivers fail to use their turn signals. This is more than double the number of car accidents the U.S. Department of Transportation blames on distracted driving on a national level.
Turn signals let other motorists know how to react to traffic. When drivers use them, others can react safely and quickly. Failure to use them can lead to dangerous and deadly accidents.
7. Disobeying Traffic Control Devices
Florida crash data shows that running red lights and running stop signs leads to tens of thousands of accidents across the state each year, several hundred occurring in Tampa. Traffic control devices also include crosswalks and other signs and signals. Negligent drivers who intentionally or accidentally disobey traffic control devices put others who share the road at risk for accident and injury.
Ignoring speed limits, U-turn signs, and traffic signals are only a few examples of driver behaviors that can lead to dangerous and fatal car crashes in Tampa.
8. Not Checking Blind Spots
Every vehicle has blind spots, and the larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spots. Failing to check and clear them before changing lanes or turning can cause a crash with another vehicle. Sometimes drivers are lazy, forgetful, or complacent. Other times, the failure to check blind spots relates to a driver’s age. New and inexperienced drivers typically do not check blind spots thoroughly, if at all.
Accidents because of the failure to check blind spots are more common in large cities like Tampa. Large urban areas have more multi-lane roads and highways where cars travel next to each other in the same direction, creating conditions for dangerous accidents if drivers do not check their rearview mirror, side mirrors, and/or glance over their shoulders when changing lanes.
9. Inclement Weather
Tampa’s pleasant climate means that drivers rarely need to deal with snow and ice. However, fog, rain, wind, and sun can create conditions that lead to accidents. Although weather conditions can contribute to a car accident, the weather is not usually the primary cause.
Drivers need to take special precautions to operate their vehicles in certain conditions safely. This often means slowing down and avoiding heaving brake action. For example, glare from the sun, fog, and heavy rain can impair vision. Drivers who follow other vehicles too closely can easily cause an accident when they struggle to see the vehicle in front of them.
10. Poor Road Maintenance
Sometimes drivers have no control over environmental factors that might lead to a car accident. Poor road maintenance is one example. Florida, Hillsborough County, and the City of Tampa must maintain roads and keep them safe for users. However, potholes, sinkholes, uncleared debris, and other road maintenance issues can lead to severe car accidents if drivers lose control of their cars. The same is true when traffic signals malfunction or traffic signs are missing.
11. Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Mechanical breakdowns at critical times can lead to Tampa car accidents. Mechanical issues cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, potentially causing an accident with one or more vehicles. The average driver does not legally have to perform preventative maintenance on their cars. However, drivers who fail to maintain their cars or fix known issues put everyone at risk for accident and injury.
Examples of poor vehicle maintenance that sometimes lead to severe car crashes include:
- Old tires. Car owners need to regularly replace or rotate their tires to avoid a tire blowout when driving. Blowouts cause drivers to lose control of their cars and can lead to a dangerous roll-over accident. Additionally, maintaining the right air pressure in tires is crucial, especially in Florida weather. Air expands in the heat, sometimes leaving tires with too much air pressure on hot days. Overfilled tires are more likely to hydroplane during an afternoon storm.
- Brake system issues. Vehicle owners need to regularly change their brake pads and brake fluid and fill the fluid between changes. Brake failure can lead to treacherous and likely factor accidents in heavy traffic or an intersection. For example, a driver whose brakes go out at a red light will roll through an intersection, possibly hitting or getting hit by another vehicle.
- Worn Axles. Most Tampa drivers do not have to deal with the rust issues that plague some vehicle owners in colder climates. However, due to the salty air from the Gulf, even Tampa vehicles can develop weak frames when they get old. Owners need to ensure structural integrity and check for worn axles. A broken axle in the middle of the interstate or highway can cause a dangerous multi-car pile-up.
12. Auto/Auto Part Defects
Not all vehicle maintenance problems occur because of negligent vehicle owners. Sometimes vehicles have defects or defective parts. Automakers have a legal duty to sell safe vehicles to consumers. However, sometimes cars make it to market with design or manufacturing defects that cause accidents. Examples of car defects that might lead to accidents include defective brake pads, tires, or transmissions.
If you have suffered injuries in a Tampa car accident, contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.