Santa Ana Causes of Car Accidents

According to information provided by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), traffic fatalities in California increased by about 16.8 percent from 2014 through 2016. In that same time, serious traffic injuries increased by 8.6 percent. The likely reason for the increase, experts state, is an improving economy that is causing more people to travel on the roadways. Regardless of the reason, car accidents in Santa Ana and beyond can produce devastating consequences to drivers, passengers, and even pedestrians or bicyclists. These accidents can occur in a number of ways. Here is a look at a few common causes of car accidents.


From 2014 to 2016 in California, the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased from 876 to 1,059, the OTS reported. In 2016, 15 percent of all drivers involved in fatal accidents tested positive for the use of legal or illegal drugs. The OTS stated in 2017 that reducing the number of impaired drivers was a major area of concentration for the office, particularly when it comes to the number of traffic fatalities involving impaired drivers between the ages of 15-24. Here are some additional facts, provided by the OTS, with information from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • The CDC reports that 29 people die in traffic accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers each year.
  • An NHTSA roadside survey conducted in 2013-2014 revealed that more than 22 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs that could cause impairment.
  • 12 percent of drivers who were tested were positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
  • Marijuana users are 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than those with no marijuana use.
  • 17 percent of the deaths caused by alcohol-impaired driving were children between the ages of 0-14 years.
  • Younger drivers are more likely to be involved in an alcohol-impaired crash than older drivers, in all levels of blood alcohol content (BAC).
  • About 30 percent of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2016 were between the ages of 25-34.
  • Even with a BAC level of 0.02 percent—well below the legal limit of 0.08 percent—drivers experience a decline in visual functions such as rapid tracking of a moving target, as well as a decline in the ability to perform two tasks at the same time. At the legal limit of 0.08 percent, drivers experience a loss of concentration, speed control, and short term memory. Additionally, drivers at the legal limit suffer from impaired perception and reduced ability to process information.


Distracted driving is operating a motor vehicle while you are focused on something else. As noted by the OTS, there are three types of distractions that one can encounter when driving. These distraction types are:

  • Visual distractions – Activities or events that draw the driver’s eyes from the roadway. Some examples of visual distractions include previous accidents on the side of the road, checking the kids’ seat belts while driving, and electronic devices such as GPS or an in-vehicle entertainment system.
  • Manual distractions – Activities or events that draw the driver’s hands away from the steering wheel. Some examples of manual distractions include eating or drinking in the car, or inputting information into the GPS.
  • Cognitive distractions – Activities or events that draw the driver’s mind away from the task of driving. Examples of cognitive driving distractions are talking to or arguing with passengers, thinking about work, or daydreaming.

Some situations that drivers encounter involve more than one type of distraction. Cell phone usage, involving talking, texting, sending email, or browsing the internet causes all three types of driving distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive. Statistics show that 14 percent of all fatal crashes involve cell phone use, with 4,637 people dying from crashes in which one of the drivers was using a cell phone in 2018. Crashes involving cell phone use come with a societal cost of $129 billion annually, roughly 15 percent of the overall societal damage created by motor vehicle crashes.

A driver’s risk of crashing while texting is six times higher than the driver’s risk when drinking and driving. Use of a cell phone while driving, even if the cell phone is hands-free enabled, delays a driver’s reaction time as much as driving with a legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08 percent. As noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Besides cell phone use, common driving distractions include:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Other passengers in the car, including pets
  • Adjusting the controls for vehicle systems such as air conditioning or stereo
  • Listening to music
  • External distractions such as accidents on the roadway, construction, or even people or activities outside of the car
  • Personal grooming activities such as applying makeup or brushing one’s hair
  • Reading


In California, speeding-related traffic fatalities increased from 995 to 1,056 between the years of 2014-2016. According to figures from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, in 2017, speeding cost the lives of 9,717 people nationwide, accounting for more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities that year. Speeding doesn’t only include driving over the posted speed limit, but also driving too fast for the conditions of the road, such as in stormy weather or traffic. Here are some additional NHTSA facts about speeding:

  • 18 percent of the drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2016 were speeding at the time of the crash.
  • 32 percent of the young male drivers between the ages of 15-20 who were involved in fatal crashes across the nation in 2016 were speeding at the time of the crash.
  • Half of all speeding drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2016 were unrestrained at the time of the time of the crash, while only 21 percent of non-speeding drivers in fatal accidents were unrestrained.
  • Speeding causes a greater potential for loss of control of the vehicle, reduced effectiveness of the vehicle’s occupant safety features such as seat belts and airbags, and an increased amount of time required for the driver to safely come to a stop.
  • Speeding is considered a factor in aggressive driving and is commonly attributed to factors such as running late, traffic congestion, and habitual speeding as a form of disregard for others and the law.
  • Male drivers, of all ages, are more likely to be involved in a speeding-related crash than females.
  • Speeding drivers involved in fatal accidents were far more likely to have a previous record of traffic infractions, including speeding and impairment convictions.

Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue, or drowsy driving, is caused either by a driver who has not gotten enough sleep or who suffers from sleep disorders, is taking medication, works split shift or night shift, or has been drinking alcohol. Driver fatigue is a major problem across U.S. roadways, with up to 6,000 fatal crashes being caused by drowsy driving each year, the CDC reports. Here is more information about drowsy driving:

  • Adults need between 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night in order to function at their fullest.
  • The dangers of driving while fatigued include a decrease in the ability to pay attention to the road, slower reaction times when the driver needs to brake or steer suddenly, and a decrease in the driver’s ability to make good decisions. The impacts of fatigue on a driver’s ability to drive safely are comparable to the impacts of driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent, which is the national legal limit of intoxication.
  • According to a survey conducted among 150,000 adults in 19 states and the District of Columbia, 4 percent of drivers admit falling asleep behind the wheel at least once in the past 30 days.
  • Drivers who snore or who receive less than six hours of sleep each night have a higher incidence of falling asleep while driving.
  • The National Sleep Foundation reports that 70 million people in the U.S. are either sleep deprived or suffer from sleep disorders.
  • One out of every eight crashes that require hospitalization are due to drowsy driving.
  • More than a quarter of drivers admit to driving while so sleepy that they could barely hold their eyes open within the past month.
  • Commercial truck drivers are especially susceptible to drowsy driving, with a federally-mandated study revealing that drivers in this profession average fewer than 5 hours of sleep each night.
  • Studies show that only about half of drivers involved in crashes caused by drowsy driving reported feeling sleepy in the moments leading up to the crash. People are often unable to reliably detect how sleepy they are or when they are likely to fall asleep.
  • Experts suggest that those who must drive while fatigued should take a 20 minute nap before doing so or have two cups of coffee or a similarly caffeinated beverage.

Aggressive Driving or Road Rage

AAA defines aggressive driving as any unsafe driving behavior that is performed deliberately and with ill intent or disregard for safety. Some examples of aggressive driving include:

  • Speeding in heavy traffic
  • Tailgating
  • Cutting in front of another driver and then slowing down
  • Running red lights
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Blocking cars that are attempting to pass or change lanes
  • Using headlights or brakes to punish other drivers

When does aggressive driving escalate to road rage? As reported by Safe Motorist, the term road rage was initially coined by the news station KTLA after a string of shootings on freeways in and around Los Angeles. The NHTSA defines road rage as a driver committing traffic offenses so as to endanger a person or property, or an assault with a motor vehicle or a weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle against the operator or passenger of another motor vehicle. Some statistics regarding aggressive driving and road rage are as follows:

  • A AAA study revealed that nearly 80 percent of drivers experience significant anger, aggression, or rage while behind the wheel at least once a year.
  • 90 percent of drivers who participated in the study said that aggressive driving is a major threat to their personal safety.
  • One of the most common types of aggressive driving is tailgating. 51 percent of the drivers in the AAA study admitted to purposefully tailgating another driver.
  • 95 million drivers admit to yelling at another driver in the last year, the study noted. In that same time frame, 5.7 million drivers confessed to deliberately bumping or ramming another vehicle.
  • 53 percent of all drivers consider driving at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit normal. The other 47 percent view excessive speed to be an aggressive driving behavior.
  • 66 percent of all traffic fatalities are caused by a form of aggressive driving, such as speeding or tailgating.
  • About 37 percent of all aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.
  • Young male drivers are more likely to exhibit road rage.
  • Half of all drivers who have experienced aggressive behavior from other drivers such as horn honking or rude gestures admit that they responded with aggressive behaviors of their own.
  • Within a seven year time frame, 210 murders and 12,610 injuries were attributed to road rage.
  • 2 percent of drivers admit to trying to run other drivers who are behaving aggressively off the road.

Call Aitken * Aitken * Cohn if a Car Accident Injured You

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Santa Ana, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries and the impacts they have on your life. Let the experienced Santa Ana personal injury attorneys from Aitken * Aitken * Cohn help you to understand your legal options. As one of the most respected personal injury law firms in California, we are uniquely well-positioned to provide first-class representation of our car accident clients, and our small caseload allows us to give our clients the personal attention they deserve. To schedule your free consultation and case review, call our Santa Ana office at (714) 434-1424.