Tuesday, March 21, 2017

NHTSA Study Sheds Light on the Causes of Rear-End Accidents

We’ve all seen it--you’re driving down the road and, suddenly, traffic stops. You inch up a little further until you can see what’s going on. You see two vehicles; one that is relatively unharmed, and another, behind the first vehicle, that is crushed like a tin can. This is a rear-end accident--an accident when one vehicle, for whatever reason, is not able to stop in time and crashes into the vehicle in front of it.

There are about 1.7 million1 rear-end crashes on US roadways every year, in which 17,000 people die and 500,000 are injured. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates2 that rear-end crashes account for 28% of all crashes on US roads.

Why are these numbers so high?

It is mostly because of distraction. Drivers easily become distracted when they are talking on the phone, texting, fiddling with the radio dial, or interacting with passengers. Rear-end crashes are such a major issue that the NHTSA is currently lobbying for forward crash collision technologies like Electronic Stability Control (ESC), pre-braking systems, and sensors to detect neighboring vehicles to come standard on all vehicles. The agency estimates that these kinds of technologies could eliminate about 80% of the injuries and deaths that result from rear-end collisions.
Most Common Causes of Rear-End Accidents

NHTSA published a study in 2007 titled “Analyses of Rear-End Crashes and Near-Crashes in the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study to Support Rear-Signaling Countermeasure Development.”3 In it, the agency studied 100 cars in naturalistic driving conditions and collected crash and pre-crash data, such as the timing and location of where drivers were looking, the timing of accelerator release and brake application, and the drivers’ time and force modulation of the brake pedal. The goal was to gain a better understanding of driver behaviors that contribute to rear-end accidents. A few of the most common causes and the NHTSA’s findings are outlined below.

Driver Distraction

Distracted drivers are by far the most common cause of rear-end accidents. The study estimated that 87% of the rear-end crashes and near-crashes in the experiment were distraction-related. Further, 47% of drivers exhibited no discernable crash avoidance responses like braking, indicating that they were so distracted they were not aware a crash was imminent. Some of the most common secondary tasks the drivers were engaged in were eating, checking mirrors, daydreaming, and adjusting controls.

Following Too Closely

The study found that 59% of rear-end crashes involved a lead vehicle (the vehicle that was struck) that was stopped, while 22% involved decelerating lead vehicles. Interestingly, the study found that the majority of drivers in rear-end crashes were not following too closely. Rather, the study hypothesized that striking a stopped or decelerating vehicle was most likely a result of late detection of lead-vehicle braking.


Rear-end crashes were much more likely to occur in junctions, including intersections and entrance/exit ramps, than on straight sections. Accidents in these areas accounted for 60% of all rear-end crashes.

Driver Sex and Age

As with most types of vehicle accidents, males were overrepresented in the crash results, with 61% of participants being male but accounting for 75% of rear-end crashes. This made males 1.2 times more likely to be involved in a rear-end crash than females. Age was also a factor, as drivers who were in the 25-34-year-old age range were almost twice as likely to be involved in a rear-end crash as other groups.

Contact a St. Petersburg, FL Car Accident Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in a rear-end accident and believe you may have a claim against the other driver, please contact the attorneys at the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-222-6922.

Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 222-6922

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