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The 10 Top Causes of NYC Car Crashes

Busy NYC Traffic

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative aims to eliminate car crashes across all of New York City and while good progress has been made (especially in terms of pedestrian injuries), car crashes remain high. With over 9,000 crashes in November 2021 alone, it’s worth examining some of the top contributing causes and what we can do to make the roads safer for everyone.

Thanks to the NYPD’s meticulous record-keeping, we know exactly what causes the majority of car crashes in NYC. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Reaction to an Uninvolved Vehicle

Traffic can be unpredictable. A big part of defensive driving is always anticipating that the other driver will make the wrong move. Yet 150 times each month, drivers get into a crash because they weren’t prepared to react when another driver made an improper maneuver. As a result, the unsafe driver leaves the scene, and two cars behind them end up in a crash.

2. Driver Inexperience

While this can mean many things, it almost always involves young drivers who make improper maneuvers, whether that’s failing to use turn signals, reckless driving, or failing to grant the right of way, among others. The only way to reduce these crashes is through better driver education, making sure teens know the rules of the road and that they are supervised while at the wheel.

3. Drunk Driving

There were about 180 drunk driving incidents in NYC in November. That’s almost double what it normally is. In a given month, NYC sees about 100 drunk driving accidents, but that number spikes toward the end of the year (especially the day before Thanksgiving). These numbers tend to stay high until just after New Year’s Day.

4. Backing Up Unsafely

With just shy of 300 accidents, backing up unsafely was the 7th leading cause of car crashes in NYC. While these incidents could happen anywhere, they’re most likely to occur while parking, usually in garages or while making parallel parking maneuvers.

Before backing up, take a moment to check your mirrors and look over your shoulder. If you rely solely on your backup cam, you could miss a car or even a pedestrian in your blind spot or just outside the camera’s range.

5. Ignoring Traffic Signals

Another 300 drivers got into crashes because they ignored stop signs and traffic lights. These are especially dangerous for two reasons. First, crashes ignoring traffic lights are more likely to result in t-bone collisions, one of the deadliest kinds. Second, they cause more pedestrian injuries, which almost always send victims to the hospital.

6. Unsafe Speeding

Although Vision Zero has resulted in lower speed limits across the city, speeding-related crashes are still one of the top causes of NYC crashes, accounting for 300 crashes in November. Moreover, these wrecks tend to cause more serious injuries because speed increases the force of impact.

7. Following Too Closely

One of the top causes of “fender-bender” accidents, these are typically low-speed collisions and result in fewer injuries. That said, they are still very common, occurring about 700 times per month.

While following too closely is always dangerous, the direct result of these crashes is often distracted or negligent drivers who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings or those who instinctively let off the brakes as soon as they saw a green light, not realizing the driver in front of them had not done the same.

8. Improper Passing

Merging too closely to another vehicle and improperly driving in the passing lane are another two top causes, accounting for a combined 800 crashes in November 2021. These crashes are largely avoidable so long as drivers are checking their mirrors and looking over their shoulders to ensure their blind spot is clear before changing lanes.

9. Failure to Yield

NYC drivers have a (sometimes unearned) reputation for aggressive driving, and the data backs it up. A failure to yield is the #2 cause of NYC car accidents, and it often comes down to failing to acknowledge who has the right of way.

A few common examples include pulling out of a garage onto the street, making an unprotected left turn when it is unsafe to do so, or turning against a red light without looking at the crosswalk, potentially endangering a pedestrian who had the WALK symbol.

10. Distracted Driving

This is, by far, the #1 cause of car crashes in NYC. Accounting for 2,600 crashes in November alone, NYPD data suggests that distracted driving accounts for nearly 1-in-3 car crashes. The reason is simple: Everyone is subject to distractions, and many people don’t realize they’re distracted at all.

Cellphones aren’t the only cause. Driving distractions can be anything from talking to a passenger to sipping your morning coffee or even listening to loud music. Each of these things adds up, pulling at your attention until you’re still driving, but you’re entranced in a kind of highway hypnosis that leaves you unaware of your surroundings.

More and More

Keep in mind that these crashes are just the ones reported to the NYPD. While 9,000 car crashes were reported in November, there may be many more (particularly low-speed collisions) where drivers didn’t report the damage. There may be yet more hit-and-run cases where the exact cause of the crash is unclear.

If you ever find yourself in a car crash, remember to always file a police report. Having an official, unbiased document explaining the details of the crash is essential and could be the difference between pursuing justice and recovering on your own.

If you or someone you love were involved in a car accident, you need affordable representation from a team you can trust. If you’d like an experienced New York City injury accident attorney from Koenigsberg & Associates Law Offices to evaluate your case, don’t hesitate to call us at (718) 690-3132 or send us an email.

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