Traffic Accidents: Seven Causes You Should Not Ignore

Why do traffic accidents happen? Are these road mishaps preventable? This article describes seven causes of traffic accidents based on scientific evidence. Read on and be informed to avoid getting involved in difficult situations.

Driving along the highway yesterday after running my usual three miles and buying pan de sal a few kilometers from home, I noticed the long line of vehicles stopping in the middle of the highway. The vehicle movement is slow.

While approaching the spot with strobes of red light coming from two police cars, I saw a damaged motorcycle lying on one side of the road. On the opposite side, a man lies on his back with a blue towel on his face. He seems to be breathing anyway. The rescuers are waiting for him to recover from a state of shock.


I do not know how the accident happened. But I tended to attribute the cause to the driver as he is the one in control of the vehicle. By the driver, I mean the one who lies on the road or the one who bumped on him. It has something to do with decision making.

7 Causes of Traffic Accidents

Looking at the issue objectively and to get rid of my biases, a quick review of the literature revealed the following causes of traffic accidents. 

  1. Drowsiness and lack of concentration due to sleep apnea (Teran-Santos et al., 1999)
  2. Use of psychoactive drugs like benzodiazepine (Barbone et al., 1998)
  3. Vehicles traveling at excess speed and drivers disobeying traffic signals (Ansari et al., 2000; Vorko-Jovic, 2006)
  4. Talking on cellular phones (Violanti and Marshall, 1996)(Note: small samples)
  5. Human errors in 70.7% of the accidents (Treat, 1980)
  6. Personality characteristics of the driver such as
    • less control of hostility and anger;
    • less tolerance of tension;
    • less maturity,
    • less conformity;
    • more difficulty with authority figures;
    • more hyperactivity;
    • more belligerence; and
    • a tendency toward risk taking (Tsuang et al., 1985)
  7. Blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) over 0.04% are associated with an increased accident rate (Borkenstein, 1974)

Actions to Avoid Accidents

Based on the list of causes of traffic accidents, drivers must observe the following:

  1. Keep healthy. Undergo medical treatment if you have sleep apnea.
  2. Mind the labels of drugs that you use. Avoid those that cause drowsiness.
  3. Drive at the manageable and prescribed speed limit in specific sections of the road.
  4. Obey traffic signals.
  5. Avoid talking or texting on your cellular phones while driving.
  6. Be alert when driving.
  7. Don’t drive when you’re angry, tense, or emotionally disturbed.
  8. Don’t take unnecessary risks.
  9. Never drink alcohol beyond what you can tolerate. Better don’t drink when you drive.

Take Home Message

Given that human error accounts for 70% of traffic accidents, drivers must bear in mind that life is precious. Keeping oneself healthy and sober while driving can prevent accidents that injure or kill people, or damage property. Driving a vehicle is an enjoyable experience that allows exploration of new places and convenience in reaching destinations to achieve specific purposes.

Drive safely. Your life as well as the life of others depends on you.


Ansari, S., Akhdar, F., Mandoorah, M., & Moutaery, K. (2000). Causes and effects of road traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia. Public health114(1), 37-39.

Borkenstein, R. F., Crowther, R. F., & Shumate, R. P. (1974). The role of the drinking driver in traffic accidents (The Grand Rapids Study). Blutalkohol11(Suppl), 1-131.

Mayou, R., Bryant, B., & Duthie, R. (1993). Psychiatric consequences of road traffic accidents. Bmj307(6905), 647-651.

Teran-Santos, J., Jimenez-Gomez, A., Cordero-Guevara, J., & Cooperative Group Burgos–Santander. (1999). The association between sleep apnea and the risk of traffic accidents. New England Journal of Medicine340(11), 847-851.

Treat, J. R. (1980). A study of precrash factors involved in traffic accidents. HSRI Research Review.

Tsuang, M. T., Boor, M., & Fleming, J. A. (1985). Psychiatric aspects of traffic accidents. Am J Psychiatry142(5), 538-546.

Vorko-Jović, A., Kern, J., & Biloglav, Z. (2006). Risk factors in urban road traffic accidents. Journal of safety research37(1), 93-98.