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Common causes of highway accidents

Motor vehicle accidents on the highway can be especially disastrous. Whether it involves passenger cars, motorcycles or tractor-trailers, these crashes too often end in fatality. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 37,000 people died in U.S. auto accidents in 2017.

While many accidents are completely out of our control because of negligent drivers, it is still helpful to be aware of the top causes of highway collisions. Precautions and defensive driving can help you and your loved ones stay safe on the highway. 


Speeding is a fact of life on the highway. Many motorists utterly ignore the speed limit and drive as much as 20 or 30 miles per hour over the limit. Speeding, and especially excessive speeding, causes many accidents on the freeway. Don't camp in the passing lane or drive below the speed limit in heavy traffic. Speed differential is also the root of many crashes.

Distracted driving

Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous at highway speed. At 60 mph, you can travel the length of a football field in the time it takes to read or send a text message. It is easy to veer out of the lane in those few moments, and it takes longer to react and hit the brakes. Anything that diverts a driver's focus from the task of driving -- texting, talking on the phone, eating food -- increases the odds of a crash. If you notice a distracted driver, steer clear. You don't want them behind you. Or in the lane next to you.

Sudden lane changes

When you are on a highway, it is common sense to change lanes safely. Use your turn signal, check your blind spots and leave enough space between you and other vehicles. Sadly, many drivers do not take these measures when changing lanes. Some motorists change lanes without proper warning. Aggressive drivers even weave in and out of lanes while speeding, creating additional hazards. Even if you are using your blinker, don't assume other drivers will. It's up to you to make sure the lane is clear.

Driving under the influence

Of course, one of the most dangerous driving behaviors is driving while impaired. Many motorists choose to get behind the wheel even when they are impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. These drivers do not have the ability to function and focus properly, often resulting in severe and fatal collisions. Call 911 if another driver seems visibly impaired, and follow at a distance. Drunk drivers have terrible judgment and reflexes. They will abruptly brake or change lanes.

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