How to Avoid a Car Accident: 5 Important Tips to Keep You Safe on the Road

Car accidents become inevitable when drivers ignore proper safety precautions while on the road, such as exceeding the speed limit or using their phones while driving. These mistakes can result in collisions with other vehicles, property damage, and personal injuries. But these aren’t the only burdens they may have to deal with; they could face legal claims, too.

These consequences should be enough to understand why learning how to avoid a car accident is necessary. Given that such incidents are prevalent in California, the visual guide below compiles everything you need to know about practicing road safety in the state.

How to Avoid a Car Accident: 5 Important Tips to Keep You Safe on the Road

Car Accidents: Stats and Insights

Understanding personal injury statistics and gaining insights into car accidents in California builds awareness of the risks you could face on the road. Let the numbers below encourage you to drive more cautiously and responsibly. 

159,882 crashes were recorded in California in 2022 (University of California, Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System)

This statistic from the Berkeley TIMS translates to an alarming 438 crashes daily, or roughly 18 every hour. It counts fatalities and injuries at any level, whether minor sprains or a critical condition. This is unsurprising, considering that the state has the most automobile registrations in the United States, reaching 14.2 million in 2021.

95, 957 DUI arrests were made in California in 2020 (California DMV)

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious legal charge that can yield fines of up to $1,000 and forty-eight to six months in jail, even for the first offense. Besides the legal penalties, driving under the influence of alcohol puts other drivers and pedestrians in danger. Causing injuries and even death to others could result in much higher and more severe consequences. 

793 car accident fatalities were recorded in Los Angeles in 2022 (Berkeley TIMS)

Countless lives have been lost due to car accidents, underscoring the need to learn how to avoid car accidents in California. No matter how near the destination you’re driving to, practicing caution and following safe driving practices will not only help you avoid accidents but also save your life. 

There was a 12.4% increase in unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities between 2020 and 2021 (California Office of Traffic Safety)

In 2020, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) recorded 782 unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities, climbing to 878 in 2021. This statistic emphasizes the need for both drivers and passengers to practice caution while on the road. The simplest way is to buckle your seatbelts before you head out, regardless of where you sit in the vehicle. 

52% of personal injury cases are from motor vehicle accidents (Injured Call Today)

Motor vehicle accidents are some of the most common accidents reported to authorities, ranging from serious car crashes to cycling accidents. This highlights the need to adopt measures to avoid car accidents when you take to the streets of California. 

Despite how common they are, not all car accidents are the same. The associated legalities and consequences depend on the nature of the collision. 

Common Types of Car Accidents

Knowing the different causes and types of car accidents makes it easier to determine how to navigate the legalities afterward. 

1. Driving under the influence

Driving after drinking alcohol is one of the most dangerous and reckless behaviors anyone can do. The substance severely impairs one’s motor skills, making it difficult to maneuver the vehicle safely. DUI accidents are common late at night, following celebrations, when drivers feel unnecessarily emboldened to speed on empty roads. 

According to the Berkeley TIMS, there were 987 alcohol-related fatalities in 2022. Although less than the 1,166 recorded in 2021, it still doesn’t change the fact that these accidents occur too often. 

2. Rear-end collisions 

When drivers aren’t paying attention to the road, they’re likelier to collide with another car. Rear-end collisions happen when your front bumper hits the back bumper of the vehicle ahead of you. These typically occur when you don’t decelerate fast enough to stop behind the car in front of you. 

3. Head-on collisions 

Head-on accidents occur when two cars collide while driving toward each other. This type can easily result in severe or fatal injuries. It’s more likely to occur along two-way roads without barriers. 

4. Sideswipe accidents

Sideswipe accidents can occur when drivers change lanes and neglect their blind spots. The collision may push the impacted driver off the road onto crowded sidewalks or into other vehicles, likely resulting in personal injuries.

5. Multi-vehicle accidents

Any variation of the abovementioned accidents can occur on a larger scale, leading to a multi-vehicle accident. This type involves three or more vehicles; the more cars involved, the more dangerous it becomes for drivers, and the longer the claim process for insurance gets. 

How to File a Claim on Car Accidents 

Regardless of the type of car accident you’re involved in, knowing what to do after a car accident and how to file it properly will reduce the stress of the situation and make the claims process easy. According to California law, you have 24 hours after the accident to report it to authorities if you were the driver or owner of the car that caused it. 

Authorities rely on your accurate car accident claim to determine the legal and financial consequences for those at fault. If you get into an accident, remain there until authorities arrive; you may be convicted of a hit-and-run if you leave too soon. Since you must file an accurate car accident claim, here are steps and tips to guide you.

1. Document and compile all the accident details

According to the California DMV, you’ll need to collect the following information from those affected before you file a report: 

  • Name and address
  • Date of birth
  • Driver’s license number and state
  • Car plate number and state
  • Driver’s insurance company name
  • Insurance policy number and expiration date
  • Their policyholder’s name and address
  • The vehicle owner’s name and address
  • Injuries they sustained or property damage caused

You should also take photographic evidence of the accident to show authorities. Take a picture of the damage to your vehicle and the personal injuries you or other people sustained; it helps to place a coin, pen, or other everyday objects beside close-up photos to give a better sense of scale. Documenting the accident can help strengthen your insurance claim and win the lawsuit if the case goes to trial. 

2. Hire a car accident attorney

It’s vital to hire a car accident attorney in case you or the other driver sustained a personal injury due to the accident. California Civil Code Section 1714 holds you responsible for these injuries, and you’ll need legal assistance from experts like RMD Law to deal with claims and protect your rights.  

3. Complete a report of a traffic accident occurring in California

The Report of Traffic Accidents Occurring in California is Form SR-1 of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You’ll need to file this report within ten days according to any of these three factors:

  • If someone was injured, no matter the severity
  • If someone is killed
  • If the property damage reaches above $1,000 

The SR-1 isn’t equivalent to a police report; you must still file a police report, California Highway Patrol report, and insurance claim. Failure to file a report may result in suspension of your driving privileges.  

4. Observe the statute of limitations 

The Judicial Branch of California has specific deadlines for filing a lawsuit against someone, depending on the nature of your claim. State law allows you to file a car accident claim within two years of the incident; property damage claims can extend up to three years. 

The sooner you file a claim, the better. Finding a car accident lawyer will help build and settle your case well before the end of the statute of limitations.

5. Contact your insurance provider

Inform your car insurance provider of the incident as soon as possible, especially since certain policies may require you to report accidents within a given period. 

When submitting an insurance claim, provide them with all the accident details, including police reports, medical bills, statements from nearby witnesses, and photos you’ve taken of the accident. Depending on your policy, they should be able to cover a considerable portion of your expenses. 

If you find dealing with your insurance provider difficult, working with a personal injury lawyer will help you negotiate a personal injury settlement

5 Tips to Keep You Safe on the Road

While knowing how to file a car accident claim is useful, it’s still best to remember how to avoid car accidents altogether. Defensive driving can help prevent accidents, but in some cases, what you learned in driving school will let you stay safe on the road.

1. Abide by traffic laws

Regularly reviewing California DMV’s Driver’s Handbook is an excellent practice for avoiding car accidents and driving responsibly. The handbook makes understanding the meanings behind different signs and lights easy.

The handbook also includes right-of-way rules, which you can cite the next time someone wrongfully goes ahead of you or incorrectly assumes the right-of-way at an intersection. Generally, the driver who arrives at the intersection first has the right-of-way; however, it’s always safe to assume other drivers won’t yield even if you got there first, so always practice caution.

2. Drive at a safe speed

Berkeley’s TIMS recorded 1,086 speeding-related accidents in 2022. Driving below the speed limit immensely reduces your chances of getting into an accident. 

California speed limits vary depending on where you are driving. Since speed limit signs are not always present, here are a few speed limits to keep in mind and where they apply:

  • 65 mph on most California highways
  • 55 mph on two-lane roads without dividers and vehicles towing trailers
  • 25 mph in residential and business districts and school zones 
  • 15 mph in alleys, blind railroad crossings, and blind intersections

Drivers become more dangerous to other cars and pedestrians the faster they drive. Driving within the speed limit is one of the simplest ways to stay safe.

3. Adapt to the weather conditions

Weather conditions affect the road’s surface, often making them more slippery. You can’t drive as you usually would on dry roads when it’s raining or snowing. Adapting to weather conditions means going slower and being more attentive to your surroundings.

One of the effects you’ll want to avoid is hydroplaning. This occurs when your tires lose traction on a wet road, causing the vehicle to slide uncontrollably. It’s a terrifying situation that can happen even when driving at speeds as low as 30 mph. 

Section 2 of the California DMV Handbook provides all the information you need to know about driving safely in all conditions.

4. Remain calm 

Road rage can impair your ability to drive safely. You may unnecessarily speed or tailgate drivers, increasing the risk of accidents. 

Keeping your emotions in check will save you from numerous road accidents. When you feel provoked or like your anger is rising, learn how to let it go quickly. One way is to find somewhere to stop and calm down. Give other drivers the benefit of the doubt, that they mean no harm or malice. 

5. Don’t force yourself to drive

There’s no harm in taking a cab or booking a ride-hailing service if your senses are impaired, whether from medication, tiredness, or substances like alcohol. The cost of alternate modes of transport will always be much less than the amount you can incur from a car accident. 

Drive Around California with Confidence

Being a confident driver in California is more than knowing the routes to its many exciting locations. It also involves understanding how to minimize the likelihood of a car accident while being prepared for what to do if it unfortunately occurs.

No matter how responsible you are at driving, you can still be the victim of a nasty car accident. If you’ve recently been involved in one and need a personal injury attorney to help you through the insurance claim and legal proceedings, call RMD Law.

Our dedicated team of experienced personal injury lawyers will provide the tireless representation you deserve to protect your rights and finances. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

FAQs on Car Accidents

1. What are the minimum car insurance requirements in California? 

  • $5,000 for property damage liability coverage
  • $15,000 per person in bodily injury liability coverage
  • $30,000 per accident in bodily injury liability coverage 

2. How is fault determined in a car accident suit in California?  

Authorities determine fault by looking for the person who caused it. California is not a no-fault state, so someone will be held accountable for the car accident. Whoever is at fault will be required to pay for injuries and damages resulting from the accident.

3. Can you be sent to jail for a car accident in California?

It depends on the nature of the accident. For example, hit-and-run cases could incur a fine of $10,000 and a year in prison. However, car accident attorneys may help reduce the penalty to $1,000 and 90 days in jail if necessary.

4. Can I sue after a car accident in California?

Yes. The California statute of limitations allows two years to file a car accident claim and sue the other driver for personal injuries or property damage. It’s best to work with a car accident attorney to strengthen your case and win the lawsuit.

5. What are the leading causes of car accidents in California?

Distracted driving, which is prohibited under the law, is a common reason California drivers get into road accidents. This occurs when drivers take their hands off the wheel or eyes off the road, often to look at their smartphone or because something else caught their attention.

Aria Miran
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