What Factors Contribute to Car Accidents?

The question of what factors contribute to car accidents is at the service of how we can prevent car accidents.

The factors of car accidents are diverse. There are human factors, technical factors, environmental factors, and natural factors. These factors can be regarded as possible causes or give rise to a cause. Personally, I see each factor as a category of possible causes in this way. These causes are important to investigate, because they hold the key to solutions for a prevention policy. Because the effect of higher fines stops somewhere.  In this post, I give my own opinion, not that of any organization
Author: Manu Steens

What Are The Main Key Factors Of Car Accidents?

The most important factors are human and technical factors, problems with the vehicle or the road, often together with natural or environmental conditions.

Risk awareness on the road and driving defensively reduce the risk of an accident.

What Factors Cause What Kind of Car Accidents?

Rear-end collisions are common in chain collisions. Causes include a variety of factors, such as being distracted, speeding, or tailgating. A front collision happens when a car collides with a stationary object or when two cars collide head-on. The causes are almost the same as in a rear-end collision. A side collision happens when an object hits a car from the side , such as another car or a train. Typically, this happens at intersections, roundabouts, during lane changes, or at a railroad crossing. A chain collision is when three or more cars collide in a row. This usually happens on motorways, where this is more common due to a combination of high speeds and not keeping enough distance. Other types of accidents include skid damage (when skidding on a slippery road), a single-car accident (when a car goes off the road and crashes into a tree, for example), a bicycle-car accident and a pedestrian-car accident.

By studying statistics of car accidents in depth, one can adjust the circumstances such as adjusting driving behavior, reducing the likelihood of an accident.

What are the main human causes of car accidents?

One of the easiest explanations is the distracted driving. This includes talking on the phone, texting, eating, drinking, daydreaming, listening to music, smoking, debating, or other activities that take your attention away from the road. As a result, you will pay less attention to your surroundings, such as other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

An increasingly frequently mentioned cause is aggression in all its forms, from less obvious to obvious. This includes tailgating, speeding, overtaking in unsafe places, and physically aggressive behavior toward other drivers. This also includes overtaking other vehicles too quickly and cutting off other motorists and ignoring roadblocks.

The police can check driving under influence more easily. In this case, it is alcohol, drugs or medicines that are the culprits. But fatigue is also part of this. It is as dangerous as drunk driving in terms of reducing your focus on the road.

Speeding (above the speed limit or too fast for the conditions) is one of the biggest causes of car accidents. It is not possible to brake and stop in time. Speeding for the conditions may indicate maladaptive behavior or inexperience. With regard to the latter, young drivers have less driving experience and therefore skills to drive safely in difficult conditions.

Medical conditions, despite appropriate medication use, such as epilepsy or narcolepsy, can increase the risk.

In addition to these obvious factors, there are other, less obvious, human errors. A driver may make the wrong decision, such as braking too late or changing lanes unnecessarily. As an extension of aggression, there is the lack of respect for the rules of the road. Examples include ignoring traffic lights, stop signs, and the like.

General factors:

Poor maintenance is an important factor with a series of consequences. It gives rise to brake failure due to wear of the brakes, leakage in the brake system or a defect in the brake cylinders. It also gives rise to tire problems such as a blowout or insufficient tire pressure. Another classic of poor maintenance is faulty lighting that makes it harder to see each other, especially in the dark or in bad weather.

Other common factors include problems with the steering such as a loose steering rod or faulty power steering. Defective safety devices such as airbags, ABS brakes or seat belts or other safety devices also pose a higher risk.

A final factor is the age of the car, which means that there is more chance of technical problems due to wear and tear, for example, than with newer cars.

What Are The Main Technical Causes Of Car Accidents With Fossil Fuel Cars?

An important category of problems is problems with the engine: when it fails or loses power. These problems can occur due to overheating or fuel leakage.

Less well known are the design defects and manufacturing defects. For example, this could be a lack of stability control or a fuel tank that easily ignites in the event of a collision.

Typical with internal combustion engines are ignition problems such as from faulty spark plugs or ignition coils that cause the engine to not start properly or sputter.

What Are The Main Technical Causes Of Car Accidents With Electric Cars?

Battery technology in electric cars is not yet perfect. Each type of battery has different problems. A typical well-known problem in the media is battery fires. These are claimed to be relatively rare, but they have high visibility and can be very serious.

A second category comes from regenerative braking, which is used in electric cars to recover energy. This gives a different braking feel than in cars with conventional brakes. This causes confusion when braking. It can also cause wear and tear that affects braking performance.

A third category is the software bugs in the operating systems that can lead to unintentional acceleration or other dangerous situations. Or the artificial intelligence that the car uses is insufficiently trained to recognize certain situations as dangerous.

Problems with charging equipment such as faulty charging cables or stations are typical of electric cars. These can give rise to super dangerous situations.

Finally, there are known problems with the powertrain: it is more complex than that of a fossil fuel car.

What Are The Main Technical Causes Of Hybrid Car Accidents

Hybrid cars have causes from both sides. I did not find any data on ‘hybrid causes’, i.e. how classical technology interacted with electrical technology or vice versa to be a cause of an accident.

What Are The Major Environmental Factors That Give Rise To Car Accidents?

An important fact is that there is also bad road design. This includes narrow roads, narrow and bad curves, poor road surfaces, inadequate lighting and missing road signs, missing shoulders, and dangerous intersections. In addition, poor road maintenance is a factor that causes potholes in the road and. If not gritted, ice or snow can cause slipperiness. Poor road design or maintenance can cause poor visibility in rain, snow or fog.

When maintaining the roads, traffic diversions, narrow lanes and unexpected obstacles can be confusing and dangerous situations can arise during roadworks.

Other environmental factors

The time of day is a risk factor because more people are driving around during rush hours, so the chance increases. The location is important because there are fewer cars in rural areas than in the metropolitan areas and on highways. Animals on the road, such as deer or dogs, can suddenly appear, with all the consequences that entails. In addition to animals, there may also be other obstacles on the road such as garbage, falling branches or trees, poles, or boulders.

Third-party traffic conditions:

Heavy traffic due to the many other drivers who are on the road; not only you but also others can drive too fast; others, too, may exhibit aggressive driving behavior in the ways mentioned above; you may have to deal with someone who is driving under the influence, be it alcohol, drugs or medication, or someone who is overtired, or someone who is distracted while driving causes an accident in which he/she involves you.

What Are The Main Natural Factors That Give Rise To Car Accidents?

Natural factors:

Natural factors such as wet roads, snow and ice, fog are well known because they pose a risk of skidding and deteriorating visibility. Also important is high winds because they can blow cars off the road. This problem is greater the higher the vehicle.


Nature has sometimes led man to build narrow roads. They offer little room for maneuver. But depending on the location, they were also forced to build winding roads. This increased the risk of going off the road due to an inappropriate speed, for example. In hilly terrain, for example, there is a risk of loss of braking downhill.

How can we start from these known causes and achieve safer transport?

In order to achieve safer transport, we can take various measures based on the known causes of car accidents.

Improving traffic infrastructure:

To this end, it is obvious to invest in better roads and to design safer intersections. What can also be useful is to improve the lighting by, for example, using better lighting technology.

In certain areas, one must go further by building in protection against earthquakes, floods, or forest fires, depending on the location.

Developing Vehicle Technologies:

The innovation of road safety can be achieved to a large extent by equipping cars with advanced automatic safety systems. This includes systems for automatic braking, lane monitoring and blind spot monitoring. There are challenges in terms of braking systems and tires with more grip on the road.

Self-driving cars can eliminate human error, such as having too much to drink.

Through connected car technology and intelligent transport systems, acquaintances can group connect their vehicles to each other, or to accessible third parties and to road infrastructure. This allows for proactive sharing of information about traffic conditions and traffic flows.

Police forces can use drones for traffic monitoring, detecting obstacles, and alerting and guiding emergency services.

Dashcams can be used to record images of accidents, which is interesting for knowledge about traffic, and in case of judicial interventions.

Innovative artificially intelligent systems can recognize obstacles on the road and warn drivers.

Influencing Human Behavior:

Curatively, more intensive checks on alcohol and drug use and on the possession of a driving license in traffic can do their job. More controls and stricter penalties can have some effect here. E.g. with imprisonment, destruction of the vehicle, mandatory re-enactment of a driving course, etc.

Preventively, one can improve driver training by including defensive driving and dealing with difficult weather conditions in the curriculum. But traffic lessons (not only in driver training) in schools and for adults can also make people more aware of the dangers on the road and teach them how to drive safely. To this end, the flow of information must be sufficiently frequent and active for every citizen.

Identifying natural factors:

Continued innovation in the field of weather forecasting can help to warn drivers. General maintenance of roads and trees along roads is also a point of improvement.


It’s important to remember that car accidents are often the result of a combination of factors. These factors have categories such as human behavior, technology, topological conditions, weather conditions, driver training…

Measures to secure traffic are often aimed at efficiency in the face of a type of hazard. It is difficult to say where the lower limit lies per type of accident and per type of cause. Possibly the most profit can be made by working on human behavior. One must learn to pay attention to all internal and external circumstances. That’s quite a task for every human being. However, it is not easy, let alone possible, to provide this in training. At most, one can mention it.

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields.

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