According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), more than 20,000 traffic accidents occur across Brooklyn and Kings County each year, resulting in thousands of severe and major injuries. If you have recently filed an insurance claim after a Brooklyn traffic collision, or you are seeking legal counsel to recover damages for your injuries, you might wonder about the cause of your accident, especially if police or insurance companies are still investigating.
Sometimes, it is easy to know the cause of a traffic accident when you are involved. Other times, hidden causes do not appear until the insurance company or your lawyer reveals all the facts of a case. In general, traffic accidents are most often preventable collisions caused by drivers, the environment, mechanical issues, or any combination of the three. Brooklyn’s heavy vehicle and foot traffic create conditions conducive to certain types of traffic collisions, especially in the winter months that bring snowy and icy roads.
If you have sustained injuries in a Brooklyn traffic accident, it’s in your best interest to contact a car accident lawyer to discuss your legal options. Regardless of the cause, you could have grounds to take legal action, especially if you suffered severe injuries. Until you have the chance to meet with a lawyer and discuss your traffic collision during a free consultation, below we’ll provide the following information about the most common causes of Brooklyn traffic collisions.
Keep in mind that investigators determine the primary cause of an accident, but oftentimes more than one cause is in play. For example, a drunk driver can fail to yield and cause an accident, making alcohol use and failure to yield contributing factors to an accident.
Distracted Driving Causes the Most Traffic Collisions in Brooklyn
The New York Police Department (NYPD) collects traffic data on collisions throughout each New York City borough, including Brooklyn. Their monthly reports provide information for each collision that includes the location, number of people involved, type of vehicle, injuries, fatalities, vehicle type, and contributing factors. A quick review of any monthly NYPD traffic report in Brooklyn reveals that driver inattention or distraction is overwhelmingly the leading cause of Brooklyn traffic collisions.
Why Is Distracted Driving so Common in Brooklyn?
Agencies that study distracted driving do not offer solid data about why certain driving behaviors occur in some places more than others, but our experience with representing injured Brooklyn traffic accident victims suggests that traffic conditions have a lot to do with distracted driving. New York City traffic is notoriously heavy and often congested. In fact, the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn consistently ranks as one of the top ten roadways in the United States with the most traffic congestion. When drivers are in traffic gridlock, they use their phones and engage in other distracting behaviors to kill time.
Heavy traffic also creates a cycle that perpetuates cell phone use. Motorists get stuck in traffic, so they use their cell phones to call or text because they are running late. Maybe they are late for work, late to pick up kids, late for a doctor’s appointment, or another obligation. Although cell phones are convenient, they heavily contribute to inattentive driving in Brooklyn and throughout the city.
Distracted Driving Refers to More than Cell Phone Use
When you think of distracted driving, you likely think of using a cell phone or texting and driving. It’s true that cell phones greatly contribute to the problem of distracted driving in Brooklyn, but cell phones are not the only driving distractions that lead to dangerous traffic collisions. Government agencies and other researchers that study distracted driving agree on the idea that driving distractions include more than physical items that take a driver’s hands off the steering wheel.
Distracted driving refers to any activity that takes a driver’s hands away from the wheel, eyes off the road, or mind away from driving.
Examples of other driving distractions that could lead to a Brooklyn traffic collision include:
- Personal grooming such as brushing hair or applying makeup
- Eating or drinking
- Unruly, inebriated, or obnoxious passengers, most likely with young drivers or in taxis and rideshare vehicles
- Adjusting heat, A/C, radio, GPS, or other vehicle features
- Focusing on an accident or other event outside the vehicle
- Loud music
Distracted drivers cannot react to road hazards and Brooklyn’s heavy traffic, sometimes leading to severe and deadly collisions that devastate those involved.
Improper Passing and Passing Too Closely Leads to Brooklyn Traffic Collisions
It’s likely distracted driving, and Brooklyn’s heavy traffic contributes to improper passing and passing too closely, another major cause of Brooklyn traffic crashes, according to NYPD data. Distracted drivers might quickly pass a vehicle out of necessity after reacting quickly due to inattention to the road. Quick, last-minute maneuvers sometimes lead to improper passing and getting too close to another vehicle while passing.
Heavy traffic can sometimes cause drivers to make poor choices if they are running late or simply impatient. Some drivers drive more aggressively and pass too closely. Others choose to pass on the shoulder or make other improper lane changes. Improper passing not only puts other drivers at risk, but Brooklyn residents who are walking or cycling also suffer injuries from collisions.
Failure to Yield
Another common cause of Brooklyn traffic collisions is that motorists fail to yield the right-of-way to other vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians. Like other causes of traffic crashes, the failure to yield is not mutually exclusive.
Drivers might fail to give way to someone in a car or truck, someone walking or running, or someone on a bicycle for several reasons. Drivers impaired by drugs, alcohol, or lack of sleep sometimes cannot act in time. Others drive carelessly without regard for the safety of others who share the road. Finally, some experience medical emergencies, such as a stroke or heart attack. Although the failure to yield can occur anywhere, it mostly happens in intersections. At high speeds, the failure to yield can lead to fatal crashes too.
Speeding Leads to Fatal Brooklyn Collisions
Speeding can lead to dangerous traffic accidents. Drivers do not have as much control over their vehicles when they speed, and they have less time to react to others to share the road. Although speeding leads to traffic accident injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates more than one-quarter of all traffic deaths across the United States involve speeding. In fact, the NHTSA has devoted ample time and resources to study speeding because of the fatalities involved. They have identified four types of speeding patterns among motorists.
Here are the four patterns and how each applies to drivers in Brooklyn:
- Incidental speeding. This pattern of speeding refers to drivers who do not regularly speed. They follow the rules of the road, and even if they do speed, it’s rarely more than a few miles an hour over the posted speed limit, and it’s typically never on purpose. Incidental speeders can cause accidents in Brooklyn’s heavy traffic. If traffic is moving, especially on the Beltway, it’s often moving well over the posted speed limit. Drivers who do not keep up with traffic sometimes interrupt the flow, leading to dangerous accidents.
- Situational speeding. Motorists who speed heavily on occasion are referred to as situational speeders. According to the NHTSA, situational speeders experience specific circumstances that lead them to go faster than the speed limit or faster than they should for weather or road conditions. Some Brooklyn drivers, and drivers across the nation, succumb to speeding when they are under a time crunch. A traffic delay, oversleeping, running late for an appointment, or a medical emergency can lead to situational speeding.
- Casual/regular speeding. Some drivers choose to speed regularly for some of a trip or all of their trip. Brooklyn traffic can impede a driver’s ability to speed, so regular speeders are typically not a problem during rush hour or other heavy traffic times. According to the NHTSA, drivers casually speed because of systematic behaviors. They have continuously sped at certain times of their trip or on certain trips, so they continue to do so. For example, a Brooklyn driver might always travel the speed limit on city streets, but they put the pedal to the metal as soon as they get on the Beltway.
- Habitual speeding. Habitual speeders are the next step up from casual speeders. Habitual speeders almost always drive above the posted speed limit whenever they are behind the wheel. Habitual speeding is similar to casual speeding but worse. According to the NHTSA, young drivers and males are the most likely to speed. Habitual speeding is also common among aggressive and careless drivers.
Driving Under the Influence
Drinking and driving or using illegal drugs and driving might not be as common as you think in Brooklyn, but driving under the influence still leads to dangerous accidents. The subway and rideshare companies reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road, making everyone safer. However, those who consume alcohol or use drugs before driving reduce their ability to process information and react to it appropriately.
Driving under the influence in a rural area is still dangerous, but without traffic, pedestrians, and businesses, it’s easier to avoid accidents. Impaired drivers who take to Brooklyn’s streets have to process massive amounts of information, including other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, stoplights, crosswalks, and a wide range of other traffic control devices and activities. Driving under the influence makes it difficult, if not impossible, to take in all this information and drive safely.
Research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has revealed that drivers who go without sleep for 18 hours have the same level of impairment as drivers who have a 0.08 breath alcohol level after drinking alcohol.
Living in an urban area is more expensive, and for some, it means working two jobs. Even Brooklyn residents who work only one job might have to commute and have other professional and family obligations that make for a long day. It’s not surprising that overtired drivers sometimes cause accidents on the Beltway or in one of Brooklyn’s many intersections.
Some people are more prone to drowsy or fatigued driving, such as truck drivers, medical professionals, and any other person who works irregular shift work.
Making improper turns is another common cause of Brooklyn traffic collisions. Sometimes an improper turn occurs because drivers do not use proper lanes, but improper turns often occur when drivers do not use their turn signals. Turn signals convey to others a driver’s intentions, so they can react appropriately.
Unfortunately, the limited research on turn signal use reveals that about half of drivers do not use their signals to change lanes, and about a quarter of drivers do not use their turn signals to indicate they are making a turn. This is especially dangerous when making left-hand turns at Brooklyn’s busy intersections.
Ignoring Traffic Control Devices
Brooklyn crash data from the NYPD also shows that many collisions occur because drivers do not comply with traffic control devices such as stop signs, stoplights, crosswalks, and others. Traffic cameras help curb some of these behaviors, but some drivers still ignore traffic control devices. Controlled substances, lack of sleep, or a medical emergency might impair other drivers.
City planners use these devices to control intersections, which they call planned points of conflict. Speed limits prevent drivers from going too fast, No U-turn signs prevent drivers from pulling into dangerous traffic, and stop lights ensure drivers do not collide in the middle of an intersection.
Devices only work as well as the users who follow them. Drivers who purposefully ignore devices because of reckless driving sometimes cause dangerous and deadly Brooklyn crashes.