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The Top 5 Common Causes of Car Accidents

Millions of people drive their cars each day to and from work and never get in an accident, but motor vehicle accidents aren't rare and happen thousands of times every day. According to figures posted as part of the 2010 United States Census, 2009 saw 10.8 million car accidents occur on roads across the country.

Within those accidents, five causes stand out as the most common. Although the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that highway deaths have decreased over the past few years, auto accidents are due to things like distraction and impaired driving remain excessively common.

Here are the most common reasons that accidents occur:

1. Distractions

One of the hot topics regarding distracted drivers is the danger of texting and driving. According to the NHTSA, some of the common distractions that cause accidents include texting, talking on the phone, eating, talking with passengers, adjusting in-car electronics, and grooming.

One of the reasons why the government suggests that texting and driving is one of the most dangerous types of distractions is because it requires more than just a glance at the screen of a smart phone. Drivers must use their "visual, cognitive, and manual" attention to send text messages, which eliminates driver perception and ability to drive.

2. Sleepy drivers

The recent crash between a big rig and a limousine with actor Tracy Morgan in the passenger's seat thrust the issue of drowsy drivers back into the limelight after the actor was taken to the hospital for a lengthy rehabilitation and another occupant of the vehicle died.

Most drivers feel like all it takes to combat feelings of sleepiness behind the wheel is a loud radio and a blasting air conditioner, but these tactics don't work at all, according to an article published by "USA Today." Activities like eating, singing, and talking don't work either, and a recent survey suggests that most people fail to pull over and rest when they're too tired to drive.

3. Drunk driving

Driving while intoxicated or high on drugs has long been one of the primary causes of car accidents. Advocacy groups have tried for decades to warn people against drunk driving, but millions of people continue to get behind the wheel each year and cause accidents because of high blood alcohol levels.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the number of drunk driving deaths in the United States has been reduced by half since 1980, which is a terrific improvement, but the problem remains one of the most common causes of accidents each year.

4. Speeding

Accidents from speeding remain high because virtually everyone speeds at one point or another, and there's more than one "way" to speed. Some people cause accidents from speeding because they exceed the posted speed limit on a given road. Other drivers cause accidents because they drive too fast for inclement weather or difficult driving conditions.

Additionally, some drivers ignore special speed limits during events like road work and cause accidents. According to figures from the most recent U.S. Census, traffic fatalities from speeding in the United States reached 33,808 in 2009.

5. Reckless driving

Sometimes referred to as "aggressive" driving, a large number of car accidents each year result from drivers taking chances on the road that are dangerous and result in collisions. Some of the common behaviors of aggressive drivers include tailgating, ignoring traffic lights, failing to signal when changing lanes, and verbally abusing other drivers.

According to a report published by the American Automobile Association (AAA), aggressive driving is a top concern of American motorists today. The report also suggests that aggressive driving is sometimes difficult to quantify, which means that the number of reported accidents due to reckless and aggressive driving could be much higher than reported.