According to 2022 State Police statistics, traffic-related deaths in New Jersey are at a 15-year high, and the state has had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in 30 years. Various factors contribute to this increase in collisions, including population density.
Being mindful of the leading causes of car crashes can help you take precautionary steps and stay safe on the roads. In this guide, our expert legal team at Sadaka Law answers the question: What is the most common cause of collisions in New Jersey? We also provide step-by-step instructions you can follow after an NJ car accident to help you receive just compensation for your injuries and property damage.
The Number One Cause of Collision in New Jersey: Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents in New Jersey. State Police recorded 698 fatalities due to traffic accidents in 2021. From 2012 to 2016, nearly 800,000 collisions resulted from distracted driving. According to a recent study by Rowan University, distracted driving accounts for nearly 25% of all fatal crashes in the state.
Cell phone use contributes significantly to driver inattention. Even though state traffic laws prohibit handheld cell phones while driving, most accidents are due to motorists texting or placing calls. Other distractions while driving include:
- Adjusting a radio or navigation system
- Putting on makeup or shaving
- Changing or putting on clothing
- Talking to other passengers or tending to children
- Eating, drinking, and smoking
- Handling pets that are inside the car
- Looking for items on the car floor or beneath the seats
- Concentrating on accidents or roadside advertising
Distracted driving often causes motorists to skip traffic lights, run stop signs, or drive into oncoming traffic.
Other Causes of Car Accidents in New Jersey
A 2012 Forbes article ranked cities according to auto insurance claim frequencies. Four New Jersey cities ranked among the top 25, meaning the state has the second-worst drivers in the United States.
However, the high number of insurance claims does not accurately represent driving ability. Even though cell phone use and other distractions are the most common causes of auto collisions in New Jersey, many other factors are at play. The sections below discuss other causes of motor vehicle crashes in New Jersey.
Reckless Driving and Speeding
Speeding and reckless driving cause fewer car accidents than distracted driving, but the fatality rate of accidents due to speeding is the highest. According to data from the National Safety Council, speeding was a factor in 29% of all accidents.
Speeding is one of the most common traffic violations. Drivers who are not intoxicated tend to speed because they are in a hurry. In some cases, motorists drive fast to break the monotony of everyday commuting. Because motorists are comfortable in their vehicles and familiar with the roads in their city, they often feel safe maintaining unsafe speeds.
Other common forms of reckless driving in New Jersey include:
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Failing to use turning signals
- Failing to turn on headlights in low-visibility conditions
Left-turn accidents are typically due to reckless driving and often result in severe injuries or even death. Cell phone use behind the steering wheel can also fall under reckless driving.
According to Responsibility.org, there were 129 fatalities in New Jersey due to drunk driving accidents. A 2020 report by the State Police indicates that 34.4% of the fatalities tested positive for alcohol. In 2020, 100 vehicle drivers, 76 pedestrians, and seven cyclists tested positive for drugs.
The periods with the highest incidence of drunk driving in NJ are Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. In 2017, drunk drivers caused 25% of New Jersey car accidents, which was well below the national average of 30%. However, in 2020, 29.1% of NJ car accidents had alcohol involvement.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recorded a significant increase in alcohol sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend might explain the increased number of alcohol-related car accidents during the past few years.
Motorists are at a relatively high risk of causing an accident in foggy or icy conditions, especially if they drive recklessly or under the influence of alcohol. Inclement weather affects visibility and makes vehicles more challenging to handle. For example, a rainstorm can loosen oil residue on the road surface, reducing road surface friction. Vehicles can also hydroplane, causing them to slide uncontrollably on a wet surface.
However, according to the New Jersey State Police 2020 fatal crash report, 84.5% of all fatal crashes occurred during clear weather conditions. In 2020, 8.73% of all fatal car accidents in New Jersey occurred during rainy conditions, and 1.45% occurred during foggy conditions.
Poor Road Conditions
According to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the White House Infrastructure Fact Sheet, New Jersey has a total road mileage of 7,608.66. However, only 4,197.24 miles of the total road mileage are in acceptable condition. New Jersey also received a D+ grade on its state infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The relatively poor road conditions in NJ are likely due to a systemic lack of infrastructure, which has affected the state for several decades. The unsafe road conditions that cause the most accidents include potholes, missing guardrails and barriers, and road signs that are missing or confusing.
An unannounced change in the road surface can also cause accidents. For example, a concrete section on a bridge or overpass might have a layer of ice, as this paving material freezes before asphalt. When drivers suddenly encounter a frozen surface without warning, they might lose control of their vehicles.
Vehicle Failures and Faults
Some vehicle failures, such as tire blowouts or brake failures, can cause accidents where the driver is not at fault. In these cases, the negligent party is the defective component’s manufacturer or the company responsible for the vehicle’s maintenance.
However, even if the accident results from reckless driving or intoxication, serious injuries might be due to a seat belt, airbag, or seat back failure. An ignition defect can also cause the vehicle to lose power, so the airbags might not deploy.
In these cases, determining who is at fault for a car accident and the resulting injuries can be challenging. Is the person who was driving recklessly at fault or the car manufacturer who failed to notice and address the car’s design flaw? In these cases, you need the help of a reputable NJ law firm.
According to the 2020 State Police report, drivers aged 16 or younger were involved in 11 fatal car accidents from 2016 to 2019 in New Jersey. However, the injuries triggered by inexperienced drivers are significantly higher. In 2020, motorists aged 17 caused 11 fatal car accidents.
A driver without a driver’s license is a high-risk road user. These motorists are not necessarily proficient in handling a vehicle, identifying hazards, and driving defensively. In New Jersey, teenagers who drive without a license might face a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment for 60 days.
New Jersey and Arkansas are the only states with laws classifying drowsy driving as an offense. According to the AAA Foundation, around 2% of all auto accidents are due to drowsy driving.
A lack of sleep is the leading cause of drowsy driving, which affects drivers’ cognitive abilities behind the wheel. On average, adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Other causes of drowsiness while driving include using certain medications, health conditions, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
In New Jersey, car accidents due to drowsy driving are more frequent during the late afternoon and between midnight and 6 a.m. Drowsy drivers who cause accidents are usually alone in the car or driving on highways.
Under NJ law, road rage can be a criminal offense, with some referring to this behavior as “assault using a motor vehicle.” However, according to an AAA study, nearly 80% of participants admitted that they had experienced aggression or another form of road rage 30 days before the survey.
Common examples of road rage include making obscene gestures, cursing, or excessive honking. In severe cases, angry motorists attempted to ram, sideswipe, or force another driver off the road. This behavior can lead to a car accident, injury, or death.
You can prevent yourself from experiencing road rage by keeping calm and becoming more tolerant and forgiving towards other motorists. If you are involved in a road rage incident, try not to respond with aggression. If you feel unsafe, call 911 or drive to a public place, such as a police station.
How To Prevent Collisions in the First Place
You can significantly reduce your risk of being involved in a New Jersey car accident by eliminating distractions. Fasten your children’s seatbelts, and teach them not to distract you while you are behind the wheel of your car. Don’t use your phone or do things like putting on your mascara while driving.
When driving, adhere to the speed limits and follow the road rules. Never tailgate the vehicle in front of you, and don’t run red lights or stop signs, even if you are in a hurry.
While you can’t force other road users to be responsible, you can drive defensively. Check your mirrors before slowing down or turning, and use your turn signals. You and your passengers should wear seatbelts to reduce your risk of sustaining injuries in the event of a motor vehicle accident.
What Should You Do After a New Jersey Car Accident?
If you were in a New Jersey car accident, take the following steps to prevent complications from common injuries and increase your chances of filing a successful compensation claim.
- Seek medical attention:After a car accident, you should seek medical treatment for injuries, even if you feel fine. A collision can result in internal bleeding or traumatic brain injuries that require immediate treatment to prevent complications.
- Call the police: Contact the police and ask them to visit the collision scene and complete a report. When filing your claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, you will need this report. Remember to tell the police about your injuries.
- Exchange information:Get the information of the other road users in the accident. You should also get the names and contact details of people who might have witnessed the car crash.
- Collect evidence:Use your phone to take pictures of the scene, damage to your vehicle, and injuries.
- Report the accident to your insurer: Most insurance policies require policyholders to report accidents within a specific period. When reporting the incident, don’t admit fault or make any comments that might downplay the damage to your car or the severity of your injuries.
Should You Hire an NJ Attorney After a Car Accident?
You need to schedule a consultation with a reputable NJ law firm as soon as possible after the accident. An experienced personal injury lawyer will deal with the insurance companies on your behalf and collect evidence to support your compensation claim.
Hiring a road accident lawyer is critical if the accident resulted in the wrongful death of a loved one or if you suffered a permanent injury that affects your ability to earn income.
How To Find the Best Auto Accident Attorney in Your Area
A car accident can happen, regardless of how careful you drive. If you suffered injury or property damage in a car accident, you might be entitled to compensation for your losses. At Sadaka Law in Englewood, NJ, we can provide you with professional legal representation and advice. Call us at (800) 810-3457 to schedule an initial consultation.