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Common Causes of Car Accidents in Los Angeles

Common Causes of Car Accidents in Los Angeles

Here in California, we have a lot of car accidents every day. It’s not uncommon to see car accidents on the local news daily. We have a lot of congestion and people, so it’s inevitable.

What are the common causes of car accidents in Los Angeles? There are many reasons for car accidents happening on LA County roads. Still, in Los Angeles, particularly, we have a lot of drivers running from police that cause catastrophic injuries and deaths. 

In 2023, one of the deadliest accidents captured on video was a fiery crash in LA that killed five people and injured seven. One of the victims was pregnant.  In another video, a BMW ran a stop sign, causing a multi-car crash in South LA.

Common Causes of Car Accidents in Los Angeles CA.

Fatal Crashes in Los Angeles

Traffic accidents are common in the state of California, but fatal crashes also happen far too often. Research shows that throughout 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.

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

Deadly Street Racing Epidemic in California

Street racing in California is at an all-time high right now. As of March 2024, the number of teens and young adults involved in it is at an epidemic level and poses a serious danger to the residents.

In particular, Los Angeles is by far the worst. According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the cities in California with the highest number of street racing incidents in recent years include Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose.

According to a local news site, CrossTown, the number of calls to the LAPD as of 2023 has decreased since 2020, but many people feel that could be partially because residents are tired of reporting it or don’t see anything being done about it.

As of January 2024, the LAPD released a statement that they were cracking down on these dangerous street takeovers and making arrests for exhibition of speed and administrative enforcement citations for spectators. They’re also impounding the vehicles for 30 days, which is helping to reduce the takeovers.

annual street racing calls in Los Angeles

Most Dangerous Intersections in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is approximately 500 miles of land and is overpopulated and crowded. People who live in LA know the areas where car accidents repeatedly happen and try to avoid those areas.

According to a study by the University of California, Berkeley, which analyzed traffic accident data from the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), intersections in Los Angeles are among the most dangerous in the state.

The study, titled “Identifying Dangerous Intersections in California Using Crash and Roadway Data” (Grembek et al., 2018), found that:

1. Between 2012 and 2016, there were over 46,000 intersection-related crashes in the city of Los Angeles.

2. The intersections with the highest number of crashes during this period were:

  • Van Nuys Blvd & Sherman Way (60 crashes)
  • Imperial Hwy & Figueroa St (58 crashes)
  • Van Nuys Blvd & Roscoe Blvd (57 crashes)
  • Crenshaw Blvd & Florence Ave (56 crashes)
  • 57th St & Crenshaw Blvd (54 crashes)

3. Intersection-related crashes accounted for approximately 30% of all crashes in the city.

4. Pedestrians and bicyclists were disproportionately affected, accounting for 35% of all intersection-related fatalities despite being involved in only 11% of the crashes.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has implemented various measures to improve intersection safety, such as installing protected left-turn signals, upgrading pedestrian crossings, and enhancing traffic signal timing (LADOT, 2021). However, intersection-related crashes remain a significant concern in the city.

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 and Reckless Driving

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, drivers are harder 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 travel 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 traffic volume alone does not cause auto accidents, but it creates more challenging driving conditions and, in turn, a greater chance of a crash. 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 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.

Adverse Weather Conditions

Los Angeles is not known for its poor weather conditions. Car accidents caused by weather conditions, however, become very common when rain, ice, sleet, or fog hit the city. Adverse weather can create slippery road surfaces and poor visibility, making it much harder for a driver to control their car.  

When rain or fog does occur in California, most drivers are unprepared because we have become spoiled with good weather. Since rain is not too common in California, when it does rain, the oil buildup on roads and highways can cause loss of traction, leading to accidents.

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 numerous factors that can lead to an accident at a stop sign-controlled intersection. 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. 

However, there are other factors that can contribute to stop sign accidents, such as a blocked view and impatience or distraction on the part of the driver. 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.


Tailgating (following too close)

The dangers of tailgating—driving too closely to the car in front—are well established. Research by the 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 of you, brakes. Tailgating is particularly dangerous on freeways, where speeds are higher, but it also presents a significant crash risk on surface streets.

Roadway Failure

One of the more complicated reasons for car accidents is a problem with the road itself. This can be hard to identify, as the cause of a car crash may not be immediately apparent. A roadway issue could mean poor road design, a confusing construction zone layout, or subpar maintenance.

Some roads might lack signage or unclear layouts 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 that violates the rules of a particular road. For instance, making a left when a sign indicates 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 severe risk of facing traffic or being stuck in a vulnerable position on 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 seeing 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. 

Nearly 80% of American drivers admitted to expressing significant anger, aggression, or road rage while driving at least once in the previous 30 days, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that the NHTSA cited.  The study also found that approximately 8 million U.S. drivers engaged in more extreme examples of road rage, such as purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.

Drowsy Driving

Getting behind the wheel while extremely tired can drastically impact a person’s driving ability. Drowsy driving can lead to lapses in concentration, slower reaction times, lousy decision-making, and involuntary actions such as drifting across lanes.

It is a common cause of car crashes on freeways when drivers make longer journeys late at night, but it can be a factor on any road. No one should drive when fighting tiredness or 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 accidents. The best way to avoid this is for every driver to check their tires regularly and maintain their vehicle.

Vehicle Fault

While most 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 control over braking or steering due to an internal fault with the car.

When this happens, keeping a vehicle on track can be almost impossible, easily resulting in a serious collision. This can occur for different reasons – the car may be defective due to a faulty component or an error on the manufacturer’s part, or a fault may occur due to a lack of proper vehicle maintenance.

Other typical negligent reasons for car accidents

  • running red lights
  • failure to yield
  • improper lane changes
  • pedestrian negligence
  • cyclist negligence,
  • intersection accidents

Less Common Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents

While the majority of car accidents are the result of common causes like distracted driving, speeding, or driving while intoxicated, many less frequently mentioned causes can also result in collisions.

  • Medical emergencies
  • Vehicle defects
  • Road debris
  • Animal crossings
  • Sun glare
  • Inadequate road maintenance
  • Incorrect medication dosages
  • Distraction from passengers
  • Inexperienced drivers
  • Poorly secured loads

No State Fully Captures Crash Data in Car Accidents

The National Safety Council examined a number of police reports to determine the data captured in car accidents. According to the NSC, police reports don’t often capture the reason why an accident happened. According to their data, the following is reported:

  • No state fully captures the data required to understand the real causes of crashes.
  • No state crash reports include fields for recording driver fatigue levels during crashes.
  • Twenty-six states lack fields to capture texting during crashes.
  • Thirty-two states lack fields to record hands-free cell phone use during crashes.
  • Thirty-two states lack fields to record specific types of drug use identified on positive drug tests, including marijuana.
  • The U.S. has seen multiple consecutive years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths.

NSC identified 23 crash factors that should be captured in police reports. The NSC calls for better data collection through electronic means and an investigatory approach to car crashes.

Los Angeles Motor Vehicle Wrecks at Night vs. Daytime

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 risks we face when driving at night. These risks become especially pronounced moving into the weekend, with fatal crashes peaking on Saturday nights.”

Also, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), in 2020, 49% of fatal accidents in the United States occurred at night, despite fewer vehicles on the road compared to daytime hours. The information from NSC is behind a paywall, but they released highlights of their report titled “Motor-Vehicle Deaths by Time of Day”; the Injury Facts® 2021 Edition.

Several factors were listed as contributing to the higher number of accidents at night, including:

  • Reduced visibility
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired driving
  • Speeding
  • Rush-hour traffic
  • Older drivers
  • New drivers
  • Animal activity on the roads, primarily nocturnal.

Driver Error vs. Auto Defect

Two types of car accidents are driver error and auto part flaws. Each has unique characteristics and effects.

Driver error is the cause of accidents, such as speeding, distracted driving, or breaking traffic laws. The driver’s negligence, incompetence, or poor judgment frequently results in these collisions.

Auto defects, on the other hand, refer to malfunctions or flaws in the construction of the vehicle itself, such as worn-out tires, malfunctioning brakes, or steering system issues. Auto part flaws can result in accidents even when the driver is driving the car safely and sensibly.

Road Infrastructure and Design Problems in Los Angeles

Road infrastructure and design problems in Los Angeles contribute to car accidents that might not occur in better-designed environments. Local officials constantly work with other officials and safety councils to improve dangerous design products.

  • Inadequate lighting: Poor lighting on roads and intersections can reduce visibility, making it harder for drivers to see pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles, increasing the risk of accidents.
  • Confusing or missing signage: Unclear, inadequate, or missing traffic signs can lead to driver confusion and mistakes, potentially resulting in accidents (Los Angeles Times).
  • Poor road maintenance: Potholes, uneven pavement, and other road damage can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, leading to crashes.

Other contributing factors:

  • Narrow or absent bike lanes
  • Short yellow signal light times
  • Lack of left-turn signals
  • Inadequate pedestrian crossings
  • Congested roads and intersections
  • Construction zones not marked

Los Angeles has been working to address these issues through initiatives like the Vision Zero program, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries through infrastructure improvements, enforcement, and education; however, progress has been slow, and many problematic areas still need attention.

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 the incident.

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

You can take measures 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 other cars (tailgating)
  • Don’t use technology while driving
  • Drive defensively
  • Check for blind spots
  • Always use your turn signals
  • Look for road debris and animals
  • Respond to auto defect recalls especially airbags.
  • Be aware of children on the street
  • Do not drive aggressively
  • Follow speed limits
  • Don’t drink and drive

Deadliest Types of Car Accidents

The severity of injuries in car accidents can vary depending on the type of collision, the speed of the vehicles involved, and other factors. However, some types of car accidents are generally associated with more severe injuries and higher fatality rates.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from a study in 2022, (NHTSA) and other traffic safety organizations, the deadliest types of car accidents, ranked from most to least severe, are:

  • Head-on collisions
  • Rollover accidents
  • Side-impact collisions (T-bone accidents)
  • Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
  • Single-vehicle crashes
  • Rear-end collisions
    Sideswipe accidents

If You've Been Injured in a Los Angeles Car Accident

Hiring a car accident lawyer is crucial if you’ve been injured in an accident in Los Angeles and you’re not at fault.  Car accident laws can be complex, especially in California.

A skilled injury lawyer understands the intricacies of these laws and can navigate the legal process for you to maximize your compensation. Bisnar Chase has over 46 years of dealing with complex car accident claims and offers a free consultation. There is no fee if we don’t win.

The Ultimate California Car Accident Guide 2024

california car accident guide cover

Click below to download The Ultimate California Car Accident Guide 2024, produced by Bisnar Chase.

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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.

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