Why Do Head-On Collisions Happen in Brooklyn?

Head-on collisions are particularly dangerous types of car accidents. And while it may seem, with drivers typically focusing their vision straight ahead on the road, that these accidents should almost always be avoidable, Brooklyn sees a concerning number of head-on collisions, more than many would imagine.

In Brooklyn, drivers of all types of vehicles face a significant risk for head-on collisions. From the Belt Parkway to the BQE, on Flatbush Avenue and the narrow streets of Red Hook, road conditions are ripe for head-on collisions. The heavy traffic, narrow lanes, and other difficult conditions of Brooklyn’s streets and highways are such that the same common errors or negligent acts that occur regularly without incident in other settings may result in the catastrophe of a head-on collision.

This post explores head-on collisions in Brooklyn, their frequency, causes, consequences, and how head-on collision victims can secure meaningful compensation to cover the especially serious injuries that often attend these accidents.

Head-On Collisions in Brooklyn, By-The-Numbers

Comparing Brooklyn-specific data through the NYS Traffic Safety Statistical Repository (TSSR) at the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR), NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) data from its Motor Vehicle Crashes – Case Information: Three Year Window dataset, and crash and location data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the following facts and figures about head-on crashes in Brooklyn over a recent two-year period emerge:

  • Total number of multiple (two or more)-vehicle collisions: 21,003
  • Total number of head-on collisions: 887
  • Number of head-on collisions resulting in injuries: 414 (47 percent)
  • Number of fatal head-on collisions: 2 or 3 (varies by data set) (<1 percent)
  • More than 75 percent of head-on collisions happened on dry roads
  • A majority of head-on collisions happened during daylight hours, and the bulk of the rest happened on lighted streets
  • More than half of all head-on collisions happened at intersections with traffic control devices, while just-under half occurred on sections of road with no stop signs or traffic lights.

These data sources also yield general observations that help in developing an understanding of head-on collisions in Brooklyn. For instance, ten years of data from the DMV further shows that the majority of fatal head-on collisions in Brooklyn happened on streets with traffic flowing in both directions, such as Ocean Parkway or Linden Boulevard.

Mapping tools from Vision from New York City’s Vision Zero traffic improvement project also reflect the stunningly-high proportion of accidents that happen at intersections throughout Brooklyn, and throughout New York City. Vision Zero’s data also show that Brooklyn has the highest density of injury-causing accidents of the five boroughs, and ranks third in fatalities.

Some conclusions from these data include that, although head-on collisions in Brooklyn are relatively rare compared to the overall number of crashes in the borough in a given year, a high percentage of them cause injuries, and they can (and do) result in fatalities. The data also suggest that weather, lighting, and road conditions do not necessarily play a significant role in causing head-on collisions, which leaves human error-related factors as the most likely culprits.

Driver Errors Behind Brooklyn Head-On Collisions

While the available data does not pinpoint the contributing factors in Brooklyn head-on collisions, as compared to other types of Brooklyn motor vehicle accidents, TSSR data on Brooklyn crashes overall suggests the likely types of driver errors that likely lead to head-on crashes in the borough.

According to TSSR data, over the two years described above, a handful of human factors played a far greater role in injury and fatal crashes in Brooklyn than did vehicle-related and environmental factors.

Many of those common human errors likely contributed to the borough’s 887 head-on collisions during that period.

  • Driver inattention/distraction constituted, by far, the most common contributing factor in injury-causing accidents, and tied for the second-most common factor in fatal collisions. Potential distractions abound for Brooklyn drivers, from cell phone usage to street-scapes that draw the eye away from the road ahead. On the narrow, busy streets of Brooklyn, the same amount of time being distracted from driving that would be forgivable on other roads can result in head-on collisions.
  • Failure to yield the right-of-way (combined with the related factors, traffic control device disregarded and turning improperly) placed second in common contributing factors in Brooklyn accidents, generally, both for injury-causing and fatal crashes. Many of these accidents occur at intersections, the site of thousands of accidents in Brooklyn every year. As mentioned above, most head-on collisions over a two-year period occurred at intersections with traffic control devices, just where failures to yield a right-of-way are most likely to occur.
  • A catchall factor described as passing/lane-changing/improper use contributed to more than 5,000 accidents per year in Brooklyn during the two-year period studied, roughly one-quarter of which resulted in injuries (or, in a handful of crashes, fatalities). Although this category may cover a wide range of circumstances, it certainly includes driving the wrong way on a one-way street or falling outside of one’s lane against cross-traffic, the major sources of head-on collisions in any urban area. Brooklyn is home to 101 numbered streets (most of them one-way), as well numerous avenues, boulevards, and other thoroughfares with varying traffic flows that are not always clearly marked and which the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) occasionally changes.
  • Unsafe speed and aggressive driving/road rage also play a significant role in Brooklyn crashes, and undoubtedly contribute to the number of head-on collisions. Any reckless driving behavior increases the risk of a small error turning into a major accident. Heavy traffic and the stress of navigating busy streets, both common in Brooklyn, can spur dangerous decisions by drivers that lead to collisions, such as passing in a cross-traffic lane without enough time to get out of the way of on-coming traffic.
  • Finally, driver inexperience factored into several hundred crashes in Brooklyn each year. Driving in Brooklyn challenges the skills, patience, and concentration of even those most seasoned driving in the borough. Drivers new to navigating the borough tend to make mistakes that heighten the risk of a head-on collision, such as entering a one-way street going the wrong direction or getting confused by unclear lane markings.

There are undoubtedly other factors contributing to head-on collisions in Brooklyn. But the data indicates that head-on crashes often happen on (mostly) dry roads and in (mostly) well-lighted conditions, with human error playing a significant role.

The Toll of Brooklyn Head-On Accidents

Head-on crashes in Brooklyn take a devastating toll. If the data contain a silver lining, it’s that fatalities in head-on collisions are rare in the borough overall, and account for just a tiny proportion (less than 1 percent) of head-on accidents that cause harm to drivers and passengers. With today’s vehicles having safety systems designed to better-protect passengers in front-impact accidents, and because the crowded, stop-and-start traffic conditions in Brooklyn do not offer many opportunities for high-speed head-on collisions, fatalities may take place less often in a Brookly head-on collision.

Still, serious injuries may result. According to TSSR data, roughly half of all Brooklyn head-on collisions over the two years studied caused injuries, a significantly higher injury rate than for all crashes during that period.

What is more, thousands of Brooklyn crashes each year inflicted injuries classified as “moderate” or “severe”, which can include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that leave victims with significant physical, cognitive, and emotional deficits;
  • Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) that may cause paralysis and loss of bodily functions;
  • Crushed or amputated limbs;
  • Severe bone fractures and other orthopedic injuries;
  • Back injuries, such as slipped or ruptured discs; and
  • Soft tissue injuries resulting in long-term, chronic pain.

Any of these injuries have the potential to cause disruption in a head-on collision accident victim’s life, and to interfere with a victim’s ability to go to school, earn a living, or engage in everyday functions.

Recovering Compensation for a Brooklyn Head-On Collision

Brooklyn locals and visitors to the borough who suffer injuries and losses in head-on collisions frequently may recover compensation from the party or parties at-fault for the crash. With the help of an experienced Brooklyn motor vehicle accident attorney, head-on collision victims may obtain the compensation needed to cover medical bills, lost wages, and any number of other expenses that result from the accident.

In a typical Brooklyn head-on crash case, an accident victim’s attorney will start by identifying who all may owe their client compensation and determining how much money the client has a right to receive.

Identifying Parties Liable for Head-On Crashes

As detailed above, the majority of head-on collisions in Brooklyn likely result from human error. In other words, most head-on accidents are preventable, and happen only because someone failed to exercise reasonable care in connection with driving or maintaining roads in Brooklyn. Lawyers refer to this failure to take due care, resulting in accidents and harm, as negligence.

A party found negligent in connection with a head-on crash in Brooklyn will usually owe damages (or bear liability) to the accident victims. Likewise, anyone answerable for someone else’s negligent conduct may also have liability to victims.

Whose negligence might cause a head-on crash in Brooklyn? Possibilities abound but, in general, attorneys focus their attention on a handful of potential parties most likely to have made poor decisions or engaged in dangerous actions that led to the collision.

These typically include:

  • The driver on the other end of the head-on collision, or another motorist whose negligent driving contributed to the crash;
  • The employer of a driver who crashed head-on while driving a work vehicle;
  • The DOT or other City agencies responsible for maintaining safe streets and working traffic signals, and for warning the public of unsafe conditions, if failures to do so contributed to the cause of a crash; or
  • A bar, restaurant, liquor store, or other liquor retailer that served a minor or visibly intoxicated person who subsequently caused a head-on crash.

These are just typical suspects car accident lawyers investigating head-on collision cases in Brooklyn begin with. Other parties can, and frequently do, face legal liability for playing a role in causing a crash This is why clients must share every detail concerning the accident of which they are aware, which will inform the attorney’s investigations into potentially liable parties.

Calculating Damages for Head-On Accidents

Lawyers also determine how much money their head-on collision clients should receive.

While every Brooklyn head-on collision differs, in general, a legal action seeking damages for a crash can seek to secure payment for:

  • Medical and other out-of-pocket expenses related to the injuries inflicted by the accident;
  • Lost wages and lost future income resulting from a victim missing work or suffering disabling injuries;
  • The victim’s pain and suffering, including harm to personal relationships and enjoyment of life; and
  • Sometimes, punitive damages, to punish extreme or outrageous conduct that contributed to the accident.

The amount of damages that fall into each of these categories varies from accident to accident, depending on the severity of a victim’s injuries, the strength of the evidence and legal arguments in support of the victim’s claims, and the size of the liable parties’ pockets (based on their insurance policies or their own assets) to pay damages.

If a Brooklyn Head-On Accident Harms You or a Loved One

In any given year, thousands of Brooklyn residents, workers, and visitors will suffer severe injuries in head-on crashes. In many, if not most, of those cases, accident victims have the right to receive substantial compensation for their injuries and losses.


If you or a loved one experiences the unfortunate event of having suffered injuries or losses in a Brooklyn head-on collision, do not delay—seek the advice of a skilled, experienced Brooklyn car accident lawyer. You have limited time to take legal action to obtain the money you deserve, especially if the DOT or another city agency played a role in the crash.