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Common Causes of Car Accidents in Los Angeles

Leading causes of car accidents in Los Angeles

What are the main causes of car accidents in Los Angeles?

There are a great many reasons for car accidents happening on LA County roads. As a city, Los Angeles is an incredible place to live and work – a tourism hub with a thriving entertainment scene. It is also the second-most densely populated city in the United States, trailing only New York, and is known as one large accident hotspot.

Due to the hustle and bustle of the city, there are many people who unfortunately suffer multiple injuries in car wrecks.

Frequently Asked Questions About Car Collisions

What are the main causes of car accidents? Causes of accidents can include drunk driving, speeding, bad weather, running red lights, and unintentional driver error.

What is the #1 cause for vehicle wrecks? One of the number one causes of car collisions is inattentive driving. Inattentive driving does not just involve cell phone usuage, but can also involve distracted driving of all kinds.

Do auto defects play a role in car collisions? Auto defects factor into many car accidents. Types of auto defects that have led to many wrecks include defective airbags, brakes, ignitions, fuel systems, and tires.

NHTSA Facts & Statistics

NHTSA Facts & Stats

Traffic accidents are common in the state of California, but fatal crashes also happen far too often. Research shows that over the course of a one-year study period, 3,606 traffic fatalities occurred. One of the main causes of car accident deaths was impaired driving.

Exactly 949 people died due to alcohol related crashes.

The county with the largest amount of motor vehicle collisions was Los Angeles, with an annual rate of losing 837 people to car accidents.

Top Causes of Car Accidents in Los Angeles

You cannot go a day without hearing about a vehicle wreck or car crash in Los Angeles. Anyone spending any time on the road is likely to have witnessed a crash, heard the familiar crunch or squeal of tires, or even been involved in a collision of some kind themselves.

From driver errors to adverse conditions, heavy traffic, and poor road layouts, we break down these all-encompassing terms and get to the root of the top causes of road accidents in Los Angeles – and how they can be avoided.

View the leading causes of car accidents below and read on for a full rundown of each crash cause.

Distracted Driving

According to the most recent car crash statistics from the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were nearly 22,000 collisions involving distracted driving across the state in 2017. Officials believe the real number is much higher, with many distracted drivers refusing to admit that they were using their cell phones to send a text message or fiddle with Spotify when they crashed. The California DMV reported more than 249,000 phone-related convictions through 2017.

The rise of mobile technology has made distracted driving one of the greatest road dangers – and one of the leading causes of car accidents. It is a wide term, covering texting behind the wheel, checking emails, watching videos, eating and drinking, tinkering with your GPS, or anything else that diverts your attention from the road.


Speeding is a form of reckless driving. It should come as no surprise that speeding is one of the chief causes of car accidents in and around Los Angeles. Everyone is in a hurry in LA, and it is a seemingly-accepted myth that driving above the speed limit is okay. But speed limits are in place for a reason. At higher speeds it is harder for drivers to react, while stopping distances are also greatly increased. Higher speeds not only mean it is more likely a crash will occur, but also make an accident more likely to result in an injury, due to the increased force of a collision when cars are traveling faster. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that 27% of all crash deaths in 2016 were caused by speeding.

Traffic Volume

A high volume of traffic alone does not cause auto accidents, but it creates more difficult driving conditions and, in turn, a greater chance of a crash occurring. Los Angeles is known as a sun-drenched paradise, the home of Hollywood, and…one of the most congested cities in the world. With a high population, not to mention the busy tourist spots, and a host of successful crowd-drawing sports teams in the Rams, Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, Galaxy, Chargers, and Kings, the roads are often heavily congested – and not just at peak times. It stands to reason that more traffic means there is a greater chance of being involved in a road crash with another driver.


Drunk driving can refer to getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol, as well as driving while on drugs. This can include legal and illegal drugs, depending on the effect they have on the body. Alcohol and drugs can have a huge impact on reaction time, judgment, coordination, and motor skills. It is not difficult to see why driving while intoxicated is one of the most common causes of road accidents. Car accident statistics show that 15% of all drivers killed in California crashes in 2016 tested positive for a form of drug, while there were more than 1,000 alcohol-related crash deaths. These figures follow the national trend, with an estimated 32% of fatal crashes across the U.S. involving a driver or pedestrian who is intoxicated, according to NHTSA.

Weather Conditions

Los Angeles is not known for poor weather road conditions. However, when the city is hit by rain, ice, sleet, or fog, car accidents due to weather conditions become very common. Adverse weather can create slippery road surfaces and poor visibility, making it much harder for a driver to control their car. There is a particular danger of car accidents caused by weather occurring in Southern California, where drivers are not used to dealing with weather variations and do not know how to adjust their driving style accordingly.

Running Red Lights

It seems that more drivers than ever are running red lights. On almost any trip, you will see cars zipping through an intersection when the light has already changed. According to data released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), accidents caused by running red lights were responsible for 811 fatalities in 2016, and 137,000 injuries in 2015. Whether it is done accidentally due to the driver being distracted, or deliberately reaching a destination faster, drivers running red lights are a significant danger and a common cause of car accidents in Los Angeles.

Stop Sign Crashes

There are many reasons for an accident occurring at an intersection controlled by a stop sign. We have all seen and heard of the California rolling stop, where dangerous situations can arise from cars not coming to a full stop at a sign. But stop sign accidents can also be caused by other factors, including an obstructed view and driver impatience or distraction. Stop sign crashes account for about 700,000 traffic collisions across the U.S. every year, making it a top cause of injuries and even fatalities.


The dangers of tailgating – driving too closely to the car in front – are well established. Research by NHTSA indicates that about 28% of all traffic accidents are rear-end collisions, and one of the leading causes of traffic accidents like this is tailgating. When you are following a car too closely, you often do not have enough time to react when the driver in front brakes. Tailgating is particularly dangerous on freeways, where speeds are higher, but also presents a significant crash risk on surface streets.

Roadway Failure

One of the more complicated reasons for car accidents occurring is a problem with the road itself. This can be hard to identify, as it may not be immediately apparent what the cause of a car crash was. A roadway issue could mean a poor road design, a confusing construction zone layout, or subpar maintenance. Some roads might have a lack of signage or unclear layout, or have surfaces made dangerous by potholes, oil spills or debris. Each of these issues can create dangerous situations and lead to collisions.

Unsafe Lane Changes

One of the most frustrating actions you can see on the road is another driver changing lanes too quickly and cutting in front of you without signaling. Rather than just frustrating though, this can be extremely dangerous, especially when the offending driver does not look before merging. This is another of the most common causes of car crashes and can easily lead to a side-swipe incident or a rear-end collision. These accidents can very easily be avoided, simply by drivers using their mirrors, checking blind spots and signaling before merging.

Improper Turns

An improper turn can refer to a turn made that violates the rules of a particular road. For instance, making a left when there is a sign indicating that left turns are not allowed. This may sound innocuous enough, but it is also a regular occurrence, and one of the most common causes of road accidents. When a car makes an improper turn, there is a serious risk it will end up facing into traffic, or stuck in a vulnerable position in a roadway. From making illegal U-turns to turning into the wrong lane, an improper turn crash can result in serious injuries. Obey the rules of the road to stay safe!

Road Rage

Many people confuse road rage with the common emotions you might experience when you see another vehicle driving badly. But real road rage is a leading cause of car crashes in Los Angeles. The term is defined as aggressive driving which puts other road users in danger. Road rage statistics from NHTSA show that aggressive driving is a factor in 66% of road crash deaths. It may result in many of the other actions listed in our Top 15 Causes of Car collision list, making it an extremely dangerous underlying cause to a wide range of crashes.

Drowsy Driving

Getting behind the wheel while feeling extreme tiredness can have a drastic impact on a person’s driving ability. Drowsy driving can lead to lapses in concentration and slower reaction times, as well as bad decision making and involuntary actions – such as drifting across lanes. It is a common cause of car crashes on freeways, when drivers are making longer journeys late at night, but can be a factor on any road at any time. No one should drive when they are fighting tiredness, or they risk putting themselves and other drivers in harm’s way.

Blown Tires

A tire blowout accident can be scary and put road users at risk, no matter when or where it occurs. This happens when a tire suddenly loses air pressure. Depending on the driving situation, the tire may simply go flat, or it could break apart. A blowout can result in the driver losing control, while remnants of a blown tire can also fly into nearby vehicles and cause further damage. In 2017 alone, tire-related incidents accounted for thousands of accidents and nearly 750 fatalities in the U.S., making it one of the more frequent types of accident. The best way to avoid this happening is for every driver to check their tires regularly and ensure their vehicle is well maintained.

Vehicle Fault

While the majority of car accident causes are driver error-related, there are times when the vehicle itself is at fault. This might result in a loss of power, or a loss of control over braking or steering, due to an internal fault with the car. When this happens, it can be almost impossible to keep a vehicle on track, which can easily result in a serious collision. This can occur for different reasons – the vehicle may be defective due to a faulty component or an error on the part of the manufacturer, or a fault may occur due to a lack of proper vehicle maintenance.

Los Angeles Motor Vehicle Wrecks at Night vs. Daytime

Do crashes occur more at night or in the day?

According to the National Safety Council, more factors play into accidents caused at night. “Shorter days, fatigue, compromised night vision, rush hour and impaired drivers are some of the risks we face when driving at night. These risks become especially pronounced moving into the weekend, with fatal crashes peaking on Saturday nights..” Avoid driving if your car lights have not been properly maintained, or if you are fatigued.

Graph of nighttime versus daytime wreck.

Driver Error vs. External Error

The cause of the wreck can determine who is liable for the collision. For example if a driver ran a red light and caused a head on collision, the driver of the vehicle would be at fault.
If a driver needed to make a stop and the brakes failed to work, then the liability may fall on the auto maker of the vehicle.

Tips to Avoid Car Accidents

As you can see from our lengthy list of the top causes of car accidents, assigning blame after a collision is not always straightforward. The fault must be determined based on the specific circumstances of an incident.

In many cases, fault lies with the driver, but in some circumstances it can be applied to other parties – such as a vehicle manufacturer, or a city council responsible for road maintenance.

There are measures you can take to decrease your chances of being in a car accident.

  • Maintain car upkeep
  • Keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road
  • Do not follow too close to cars
  • Be aware of children in the street
  • Do not drive agressiveley

How a Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney can Help Determine Liability

The Los Angeles car accident lawyers at Bisnar Chase have been serving LA for more than 40 years. When it comes to these common causes of road accidents – and even some not-so-common car crash causes – our lawyers have been there and done it. A Bisnar Chase car accident attorney in Los Angeles will have the expertise to explore your legal options and seek compensation for your damages, injuries, and losses.

The Ultimate California Car Accident Guide 2023

california car accident guide cover

Click below to download The Ultimate California Car Accident Guide 2023, produced by Bisnar Chase.

Case Results

  • 1


    Consumer Class Action

  • 2


    Motor Vehicle Accident

  • 3


    Auto Defect – Seat Manufacturers, Johnson Controls

  • 4


    Motorcycle Accident

  • 5


    Defective Seatback

  • 6


    Bicycle Accident

Client Reviews

Bisnar Chase Google Review - Lena

I wasn’t sure if I needed a personal injury attorney because I’d never been in a car accident before. I assumed I’d just go straight through the other driver’s insurance but that quickly became a nightmare. I spent months fighting over the simplest of issues about my case, which was 100% the other driver’s fault. I hired Bisnar Chase to see if they could just take it over for me. I was really impressed with how much they communicated everything to me! I suddenly started getting calls from the insurance company, imagine that. My final settlement was 6 times what I asked for to begin with. Everyone I dealt with was really involved in what was best for me, not the insurance.

Lena Murillo
Bisnar Chase Google Review

I had an attorney for my truck accident who wanted almost 60% of what my case was worth. Worse than that, he was willing to settle for $5,000.00 with the insurance company even though I was still treating for whiplash and back pain. I contacted Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys because a friend recommended them. My case was handled exceptionally well! I was being kept notified throughout the whole process and only when I was comfortable with the settlement figure, did my attorney Gavin Long, accept it. I felt like we were working together and I felt listened to. I would refer Bisnar Chase to anyone who wants quality over quantity!

Lauren B
Bisnar Chase Review - Natalie

I’m so impressed with this law firm. I lost my mother because of a seat defect when she was rear-ended in an auto accident and Bisnar Chase stepped up and took our case. The staff is wonderful and Brian Chase took his time explaining everything via phone with me. I’m honored to have the best of the best working on our family’s behalf, trying to get justice for my Mom, because of a negligent car company still manufacturing faulty seats. I look forward to working with this firm and am hopeful for a positive outcome. Thank you so much, Brian Chase. I know you will work your hardest on this case. God Bless you.

Natalie C.
Bisnar Chase Google Review

It was a pleasure working with such an amazing team. You will definitely feel welcomed and kept in the loop throughout the entire process. They do a great job making you feel like you are a part of their team which is how one should feel. The superb customer experience from finish to end. You can trust they will do all possible to promptly and efficiently handle your case.
Yes! I recommend this team…

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