For legal purposes, a rear-end collision is when a vehicle following another vehicle fails to stop in enough time to avoid colliding with the car in front of it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accident. They happen every eight seconds in the United States, which adds up to a staggering 2.5 million rear-end collisions every year.
Unfortunately, drivers and passengers in both vehicles can sustain serious injuries in this type of crash. This is true even when the vehicles were traveling at a low speed. Injuries and property damage can become more serious when multiple vehicles are involved, causing a domino effect with each car striking the car in front of it.
Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions
Tailgating, which means following another car too closely, is the leading cause of this type of car accident. In normal circumstances, the driver behind the leading vehicle is expected to have greater control of his or her car. Most police officers and insurance adjusters automatically assign fault to the driver in this position for that reason. However, some situations exist where fault clearly lies with the lead driver. These include:
Stopping short: Stopping short means that the driver slammed on his or her brakes for no reason and the car behind did not have enough time to stop to avoid a collision.
Faulty brake lights or failure to signal a lane change: All drivers are responsible to make their intentions known to other drivers. When a brake light doesn’t come on indicating the driver intends to stop or the driver doesn’t signal that he or she intends to change lanes, tailing drivers may not have enough time to stop.
Sudden lane changes: Most people have had the experience of being cut off by another driver. This means that he or she pulls out in front of traffic too quickly for the cars behind to have enough of a response time.
Other common causes of rear-end collisions that are usually attributed to the driver who is following include:
Distracted driving: Using a cell phone, smoking, applying makeup, and changing the radio station are common forms of distracted driving that keep the driver’s eyes off the road and especially the vehicle in front of him or her. It only takes a second of distraction to cause serious consequences.
Speeding: A person who is driving too fast won’t be able to stop his or her car in enough time to avoid hitting the car in front if that driver must stop suddenly. Maintaining a safe following distance and obeying the speed limit are the easiest ways to avoid this problem.
Poor weather conditions: Heavy rain, winds, snow, and other types of severe weather can make it much more dangerous to be on the road. Drivers must slow down and give themselves enough stopping distance so they don’t hit the car in front of them due to slippery roads or other problems caused by severe weather.
Faulty brakes: If a driver’s brakes fail, he or she can’t stop the car at all. This can happen due to improper maintenance, errors by repair technicians, and defects in design or manufacturing.
If you have been involved in a rear-end collision, it’s essential to determine fault as quickly as possible. That is because some states will not allow you to collect any damages if you share any blame while others only allow you to sue for minimal damage. It’s also a good idea to retain a personal injury attorney to help sort out who is at fault as well as proceed with a lawsuit if you choose.