The U.S. government participates in traffic safety through legislation, and much of the data driving these laws comes from federal agencies that investigate crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a Special Crash Investigations Program that is instrumental in gathering crash information.
Another agency, the Insurance Information Institute, reports on the driver behaviors that caused the most fatal crashes in 2018.
The faster a vehicle travels, the more likely it is to cause serious and fatal injuries, so it makes sense that speeding is the No. 1 cause of fatal crashes. Nearly 17% of the time, drivers in fatal accidents were speeding.
Drunk driving and drugged driving also played a significant role in the death of Americans that year. Roughly 10% of the drivers in deadly crashes had alcohol or drugs in their system. This includes over-the-counter and prescription medications that impair function as well as illegal drugs.
Drivers who did not stay in the appropriate lane caused 3,706 fatal crashes: 7.2% of the total. Crossing lines into another lane or onto the shoulder of the road without first making sure it is safe to do so can easily put lives at risk.
Failure to yield
Traffic signals or signs typically indicate exactly which vehicle should go first, and which should yield. When drivers ignore those signals and go out of turn, they often cause crashes. There were 3,579 fatal accidents in 2018 involving failure to yield right of way.
Although experts believe distraction is difficult to document and may go unreported in many crashes, data still indicates a dramatic number of deaths caused by driver inattention. Drivers in the 2,688 fatal accidents may have been texting, eating, talking on the phone or even just daydreaming when they crashed.
Other dangerous behaviors
Carelessness, failure to obey traffic signs, reckless or negligent driving, overcorrection and obscured vision rounded out the top 10. Fatigued driving, slippery roads and wrong-way driving also contributed to thousands of serious traffic accidents.