9 Unsafe Driving Behaviors That Lead to Accidents

Unsafe driving behaviors contribute to the majority of motor vehicle accidents. It can be easy to become complacent when driving since it is an activity that we complete so frequently. It is vital to exercise caution and follow safety best practices when behind the wheel to reduce the risk of a crash occurring.

9 unsafe driving behaviors that lead to accidents

Unsafe Driving Behavior Accident Statistics in the United States

According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a total of 36,096 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2019. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent estimate of the annual economic cost of crashes is $242 billion. Unsafe driving behaviors contribute to many of the accidents that occur.

This post discusses common unsafe driving behaviors that often contribute to accidents. These behaviors include distracted driving, speeding, driving too fast for conditions, engaging in road rage, keeping loose cargo in the vehicle, ignoring traffic signals and signs, driving under the influence, driving while fatigued, and not wearing a seatbelt.

Behavior #1: Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a serious problem on today’s roadways. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration reported that 3,142 lives were lost in 2020 due to distracted driving. The true number may be significantly higher.

distracted driving

Cellphones are the most significant contributor to drivers not paying attention when behind the wheel. Despite most states banning cellphone use while driving unless using a hands-free device, an estimated 80% of all drivers (who have a cell phone) use their cellphone while behind the wheel.

While wireless options, such as Bluetooth or a wireless headset, make using cellphones safer while behind the wheel, even just talking on the phone can lead to distractions. It is easy for your mind to drift towards the conversation that is being had instead of on the road ahead.

Using a cellphone when driving is not the only common unsafe behavior that can distract a driver. Other distracting activities include eating, drinking, looking at a GPS, interacting with passengers, applying makeup, looking at surroundings, etc.

It is vital to focus your attention on the road and what is occurring around your vehicle when driving to avoid allowing distractions to cause an accident.

Behavior #2: Speeding

Speeding is a contributing factor to many accidents every single day. Speeding can lead to severe auto accidents due to increased forces experienced at the time of impact. According to the NHTSA, speeding killed 9,478 people in 2019. This figure equates to 26% of all fatal accidents in 2019.

speeding accidents

Always follow the posted speed limits. Adjust your speed to the environmental conditions and traffic conditions around you to ensure your safety.

Behavior #3: Road Rage

Dictionary.com defines road rage as, “a fit of violent anger by the driver of an automobile, especially one directed toward and endangering other motorists or pedestrians”. Road rage often encompasses various unsafe driving behaviors packed into a brief but tense situation with other drivers. Drivers may get upset with someone else around them and decide to engage in unsafe behaviors in an attempt to “get back” at another driver.

road rage accidents

These behaviors may include swerving in front of another driver, stopping abruptly, blocking other vehicles from passing, or even purposely making contact with another vehicle.

There is no winning when choosing to engage in road rage with other drivers. These behaviors can easily lead to yourself or others on the roadway being injured or killed. Always choose to be the bigger person to diffuse the situation.

Behavior #4: Keeping Loose Cargo in the Vehicle

Loose cargo such as objects or trash in the vehicle can lead to various issues for drivers. Rolling objects can become stuck under the pedals, resulting in not being able to use the pedals when needed. Loose cargo can also become projectiles in the event of an accident. Heavy or sharp objects that are loose in the cab are especially dangerous if an accident occurs. These objects can strike vehicle occupants

Behavior #5: Ignoring Traffic Signals and Signs

Traffic signals and signs are put on or along the roadway for a reason. Traffic signals help to safely control the flow of traffic and traffic signs communicate vital information for those on the roadway.

Going through a traffic signal, such as a red light or stop sign, can lead to a severe accident. Not following traffic signs can lead to accidents as well. Signs often communicate safety information for drivers and by not following the instructions or warnings provided, accidents can occur.

Behavior #6: Driving Too Fast for Conditions

As mentioned above, speeding does not just include driving over a posted speed limit. Environmental conditions and traffic conditions may require drivers to drive well below the posted speed limit to ensure safety. Common environmental conditions that can require drivers to slow down include sun glare, snow, ice, rain, fog, etc.

driving too fast for conditions

Many states have enacted laws that require drivers to travel at a speed that does not increase the potential for harm to occur. For example, Pennsylvania has a law that states:

“No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing, nor at a speed greater than will permit the driver to bring his vehicle to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead”.

Always adjust your driving speed for the conditions that are present. When possible, schedule travel around weather conditions that lead to dangerous driving conditions.

Behavior #7: Not Wearing a Seatbelt

Seatbelts save lives. It is estimated that seatbelts save over 14,000 lives per year.

These safety devices were put in some of the earliest vehicles. While the first seatbelts that were invented were lap belts only, in 1968 the first federal law mandating all new cars be equipped with both lap and shoulder belts in the front seat was introduced. The majority of states also have laws in place that require all vehicle occupants have their seatbelts on.

not wearing seatbelts

Despite the well-established data that seatbelts save lives and the laws requiring their use, many individuals still choose to not wear seatbelts. This behavior can be a deadly decision.

Wear your seatbelt every time you are in the vehicle. Ensure the seatbelt is worn correctly and is functioning as expected.

Behavior #8: Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is one of the most unsafe driving behaviors an individual can partake in. The CDC reports that every day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This is one death every 50 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.

Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is also important to understand how prescriptions can affect your ability to drive as well. Many medications can impede your driving ability or can interact with alcohol or other medications.

Behavior #9: Driving Fatigued

Fatigue is rampant in today’s society. The CDC reports that 37% of the US population does not get the recommended seven hours of sleep per night.

driving while fatigued

Being fatigued while driving can be as dangerous as driving impaired under the influence of alcohol. Fatigue can lead to slower reaction times, experiencing microsleep episodes, and poor decision making. Any of these events can easily lead to an accident occurring where it otherwise would have not happened if the driver was not fatigued.

Never drive while fatigued. Always get the recommended amount of sleep and practice healthy habits to ensure you are fit to drive.


Any of the above behaviors can contribute to an accident occurring. These behaviors are especially dangerous when drivers are combining multiple unsafe behaviors when driving at the same time. Be mindful of your decisions the next time you drive. Monitor whether or not you are making unsafe choices when driving.

Do not allow complacency to lead to an accident, which can lead to serious injuries or death.

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