Which Drivers Have the Greatest Likelihood of Deadly Crashes?

Car accidents can happen to anyone, at any moment. Some drivers, however, have a much higher likelihood of ending up in an accident—and if they do have an accident, they may have a higher likelihood of a deadly crash. Can you spot drivers sharing the road with you who may have a higher likelihood of causing a deadly accident?

Teen Drivers

Young drivers, from those who get their license when they first turn sixteen to those in the eighteen to nineteen range, who may experience their first taste of independence and freedom, may have a much higher risk of causing severe accidents. Per mile driven, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that teen drivers face approximately a three times greater risk of involvement in a severe accident than older adult drivers. Teen drivers pose greater fatal accident risks for several reasons.

Lack of Experience

Teen drivers lack experience, which can raise their risks in at least two ways. First, an experienced driver has better odds than an inexperienced driver of responding appropriately when a car spins out of control. Second, experienced drivers stand a better chance than inexperienced ones of avoiding circumstances that can lead to a loss of control in the first place.

Poor Decision-Making

As a group, teenagers tend to make less-informed, more-risky decisions than others. For example, teen drivers may text and drive, speed, or engage in reckless behavior on the road out of a desire to look cool, which of course has nothing to do with driving safely. Teen drivers may also have a much greater likelihood of panicking, either during an accident or as an accident approaches, which may increase the likelihood of an accident that causes severe injuries or death.

Increased Risk of Distraction

Teen drivers can become distracted much more easily than adults. They tend to have more trouble paying attention to the road, for instance, when they have other teens in the car with them. They also are prone to responding impulsively to a text notification on their phone. Greater overall distraction can increase the risk of a deadly accident.

Drunk Drivers

On average, drunk or otherwise impaired drivers account for more than a quarter of fatal accidents across the United States every year. A driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely significantly deteriorates after consuming even small quantities of alcohol.

Visual Impairments

Drinking or using drugs can cause visual impairments. Some drunk drivers struggle with blurred vision or the inability to focus their eyes. Others suffer from tunnel vision. A lack of clear visual perception can make it very difficult for drunk drivers to navigate safely on the road, especially at night or in hazardous driving conditions.

Impaired Decision-Making Skills

Drunk drivers often exhibit poor decision-making, which can lead to reckless behavior on the road. They tend to speed more and take more aggressive actions behind the wheel than sober drivers. The more reckless the behavior, the greater the odds of a fatal accident.

Diminished Reaction Times

Drunk drivers also exhibit longer reaction times than sober drivers. Even the most experienced driver may struggle to respond correctly in the event of a severe accident. Slowed reaction times may mean that a drunk driver plunges into the accident at a higher rate of speed or cannot react fast enough to avoid a collision, which may increase the risk of fatal injuries.

Speeding Drivers

High rates of speed limit drivers’ abilities to control their vehicles, and shrink the amount of time they have to respond to a road hazard. Unfortunately, many drivers lack the reaction times necessary to slow down in time to prevent an accident. Speeding has accounted for an average of a third of traffic deaths across the United States annually for more than two decades.

Speeding drivers may often fail to notice other cars around them. They may not spot a hazard before they end up on top of it. Speed also increases the force of an impact in a collision, leading to more severe injury for everyone involved.

Older Drivers

While teen drivers have a much higher accident rate than other demographic groups, senior drivers can also pose a hazard on the road. In fact, drivers over the age of 75 have a much higher fatality rate than middle-aged drivers, even when involved in similar accidents.

Seniors may experience greater hazards on the road due to:

  • Increased physical vulnerability – As they age, seniors naturally become more fragile. They may struggle more to deal with the impact of serious injuries, which can lead to an increased risk of an accident fatality.
  • Impaired vision – Seniors often notice their vision deteriorating over time, even with corrective eyewear. Many seniors struggle to see clearly at any distance, making it dangerous for them to get behind the wheel. Often, seniors excuse their visual deficits by insisting that they do not plan to travel over a large distance. They just “need to make a quick trip,” which does not sound dangerous until a visual deficit leads to severe injuries.
  • Decreased mobility – Many modern vehicles offer aids that help seniors cope with decreased mobility. Unfortunately, seniors may lose the ability to easily look over their shoulders or quickly turn their heads to look for oncoming traffic. They may rely heavily on their mirrors, which can lead to increased risks and distractions behind the wheel.
  • Decreased mental faculties – As seniors age, they may notice changes in their overall mental states. Seniors developing Alzheimer’s or dementia, in particular, may struggle to drive and reach their destinations safely. Decreased mental faculties may slow reaction times or make it more difficult for seniors to respond to potential accident scenarios. Unfortunately, slowed reaction times can make it harder for seniors to avoid hazards on the road.

Distracted Drivers

Distracted drivers have a much higher risk of accidents in general, and fatal accidents in particular.

Road safety experts identify three key types of driver distractions:

  • Manual distractions, such as adjusting the radio or putting on makeup, that take a driver’s hands off the wheel;
  • Visual distractions, like looking at a cell phone, that take the driver’s eyes off of the road; and
  • Cognitive distractions, which take the driver’s attention off the task of driving safely.

Some distractions involve multiple types of distraction. Cell phone use, for example, involves manual, visual, and cognitive distractions all at the same time.

No matter what the distraction, distracted drivers quickly lose track of what is happening around them on the road. A vehicle driven by a distracted driver may drift out its lane, or fail to stop for a vehicle or pedestrian in front of it.

Distraction can also slow a driver’s response time substantially, significantly raising the risk of a fatal accident. Cognitive distractions, for example, take the driver’s attention away from the road, which means the driver may need more time to respond to potentially dangerous scenarios.

Visual distractions take the driver’s eyes off of the road, which means that he may not notice a potential hazard in time to respond. Finally, manual distractions take the driver’s hands off the wheel, requiring vital extra seconds for the driver to put his attention back on the task at hand before he can respond to a potential accident.

Drivers on Rural Roads

On rural roads, drivers have a much higher overall chance of fatal accidents. Rural roads see less than half of the country’s overall traffic but account for, on average, more than half of the country’s traffic deaths.

Rural roads pose unique hazards with which drivers must contend to reduce their accident risk.

Rural Roads May Receive Less Maintenance and Attention

In many rural areas, the roads do not receive the full attention and repair they need. As a result, rural drivers may have to contend with potholes and road hazards. Rural roads may also have fewer barriers to prevent cars from flipping over or sliding off the road into dangerous areas. Unfortunately, this lack of maintenance and attention can increase the risk of fatal accidents on those roads.

More Hazards on the Roads

Rural roads contain unique hazards that can substantially increase the risk of accidents. Often, rural areas contain winding roads with larger, more dangerous curves. Those roads may also have a greater likelihood of icing. They may have sharper drop-offs at the side of the road, which can lead to a greater likelihood of severe injuries or fatalities.

Reckless Drivers

Reckless driving behaviors can substantially increase the overall risk of accidents and, in many cases, increase the risk of fatalities on the road. Reckless drivers may engage in a variety of potentially dangerous behaviors.

Weaving in and out of Traffic

Reckless drivers often weave in and out of traffic to reach their destination faster. Unfortunately, this strategy rarely helps decrease the amount of time needed to reach a particular destination. It does, however, mean that drivers face unique challenges with each lane change or shift in position on the road. Consequently, they may cause fatal accidents.


When tailgating, reckless drivers do not offer themselves enough time to stop if the car in front of them slams on its brakes. At high rates of speed, rear-end collisions can prove particularly dangerous. A rear-end collision with a big truck can result in the top of the rear vehicle shearing off, causing severe injury or death to the inhabitants.

Ignoring the Rules of the Road

Most rules of the road, including right of way and traffic signs and signals, exist to help increase safety for everyone on the road. Drivers who ignore those rules may find themselves in serious danger of a fatal accident. Not only can they cause accidents directly by ignoring those rules, reckless drivers may make it difficult for other drivers to predict their behavior, which may substantially increase overall accident risk.

Keeping Yourself Safe on the Road

Some factors that can increase the risk of fatal accidents, you can do little about. Other factors, however, you may control much more efficiently. You can keep yourself safe on the road by:

Avoiding Distraction

Pay attention to your driving, not to other factors in or outside the vehicle. Keep your cell phone and other smart devices out of reach. Turn off notifications on your smartwatch so that you do find yourself looking away from the road. Try to set your GPS, take care of temperature control, or change the station on the radio before heading out on the road.

Giving Yourself Time to Reach Your Destination

Leave early so that you can avoid the temptation to speed. Keep in mind that speeding rarely offers a substantial decrease in the amount of time it will take to reach your destination anyway, but can substantially increase your overall risk of an accident. You may also find that leaving earlier makes it easier and more convenient for you to avoid hazards on the road.

Paying Attention to Other Drivers Around You

Pay careful attention to other drivers around you. Do you see a driver engaging in potentially reckless behavior? Do you see a teen driver in the next lane, struggling to keep control of her vehicle? Have you noticed a driver texting while driving? Avoiding those drivers, even if it means slowing your rate of speed or taking a different route, can decrease your risk of involvement in a fatal accident.

Did You Lose a Loved One in a Deadly Crash?

If you lost a spouse, parent, or child in a fatal collision, you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim against the party that caused that accident. Contact an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your right to compensation.