What are the leading causes of car crashes in Pennsylvania?

Drivers in Pennsylvania should be familiar with common causes of accidents in the state, which include alcohol use, distracted driving and speeding.

Car accidents occur all too frequently in Pittsburgh and other parts of Pennsylvania. In 2014 alone, over 121,000 crashes were reported in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. While some of these accidents may happen due to factors beyond a driver’s control, such as vehicle defects, many more involve driver error. It is crucial for local motorists to understand the most common causes of these accidents so that they can reduce their risk of experiencing one.


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the majority of drivers speed and that this behavior can raise the risk of serious accidents in multiple ways. At faster travel speeds, drivers have less time to react to hazards and less control over their vehicles. Furthermore, more kinetic energy must be released in higher-speed crashes, which increases the likelihood of severe vehicle damage and serious personal injuries.

In Pennsylvania, speeding was the most common factor identified in both general accidents and fatal accidents in 2014. Speed contributed to over 32,000 accidents that year, which represented over one-quarter of all accidents that were reported. Tragically, people lost their lives in 434 of these speed-related accidents.

Alcohol use

Although alcohol use and related car accidents have declined over the past few decades, driver impairment remains a top cause of accidents. Mothers Against Drunk Driving states that roughly one-third of fatal auto accidents involve drivers who have been consuming alcohol. The same source reports that in 2015, over 11,000 alcohol-related car accidents occurred in Pennsylvania, injuring more than 7,900 people.

According to the PDOT, drunk driving was the fourth most common factor identified in auto accidents that occurred in the state in 2014. It was also cited as a factor in 188 fatal crashes, making it the second most common cause of deadly accidents.

Driver distraction

Distracted driving poses a growing threat to motorists in Pennsylvania. The government website Distraction.gov explains that any task that takes a person’s attention away from driving qualifies as distracted driving. Some of the most common manual, visual and cognitive distractions that drivers engage in include:

  • Using handheld or hands-free electronic devices, such as cell phones
  • Utilizing in-vehicle systems and controls
  • Interacting with passengers or pets
  • Eating or drinking
  • Grooming

According to the PDOT, in 2014, driver distraction contributed to over 13,900 crashes in Pennsylvania, making it the second most common known cause of accidents. This is especially troubling because distracted driving accidents are often under-reported, due to the difficulty of conclusively proving that a driver was distracted at the time of a crash. Therefore, an even higher number of accidents in the state may have involved this unnecessary behavior.

Taking legal action

Sadly, if data from the last two years is a reliable indicator, accidents that involve these preventable driver habits may harm many Pennsylvania residents this year. The victims of these accidents may benefit from meeting with an attorney to assess whether recourse might be available. Besides offering legal advice, an attorney may be able to assist a person in seeking appropriate compensation for medical costs, lost earnings and other losses arising from a negligence-related accident.