Each year, on United States roadways, drivers suffer more than 1.7 million rear-end collisions. These common accidents can leave drivers and their passengers suffering from serious injuries and ongoing problems, especially at high rates of speed. Understanding how rear end collisions occur and taking steps to prevent them can help keep many drivers safer on the road.
What Are Rear End Collisions?
Rear end collisions occur when one vehicle slams into the one in front of it, usually due to the rear vehicle failing to stop in time. These common accidents often cause serious injuries in vehicle occupants, including:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord damage, including whiplash
- Broken bones
- Sprains and strains
- Crushing damage
Rear end collisions may occur for a variety of reasons. Often, one driver may grow distracted, causing him to fail to notice that the front vehicle has stopped in time to bring his own vehicle to a safe stop. Other reasons for rear end collisions include:
- Faulty brakes. Sometimes, faulty brakes can cause a driver to crash into the vehicle in front, even if the driver attempts to stop in plenty of time.
- Speeding. Traveling at excessive rates of speed can make it difficult for drivers to stop in time, especially if the front driver slams on their brakes or changes lanes suddenly.
- Following too closely. Like speeding, following too close can make it difficult for the rear driver to respond in time if the front driver has to stop abruptly.
- Driving while tired. Excessive tiredness can cause increased distraction behind the wheel, making it more difficult for drivers to stop in time.
- Road rage. Sometimes, the rear driver may bump the car in front of him, or even slam into it, as a result of road rage. Anger behind the wheel can cause drivers to behave in dangerous and unexpected ways, including substantially increasing their risk of causing an accident.
Is the Rear Driver Always Responsible for a Rear End Collision?
Most of the time, the rear driver causes rear end collisions. In some cases, however, that driver may not bear liability for the accident. If you suffered injuries in a rear end collision, consult with a lawyer to better determine who bears liability in the case of your accident. In the event of mechanical failure, the car manufacturer or a mechanic who has recently worked on those areas may bear liability. If your brakes fail in a new vehicle, for example, the car manufacturer may bear liability for the accident. The front driver may cause the accident due to a variety of factors. In some cases, the front driver may cause the accident. While slamming on the brakes due to a road hazard or other challenge does not leave the front driver with liability for the accident, some other factors may. Consider:
- The front vehicle may lack brake lights, making it impossible for the rear driver to see that they stopped. A lack of both brake lights may leave the front driver with partial or full liability for the accident, depending on the circumstances.
- The front vehicle may back into the rear vehicle. Most of the time, rear end collisions occur when the rear vehicle strikes the front vehicle. In some cases, however, the front vehicle may attempt to reverse, perhaps to leave more room at a red light or stop sign. The front vehicle may also roll backward more than anticipated on a steep hill.
- The front driver may change lanes abruptly and slam on their brakes, leaving the rear driver without adequate time to respond.
Extenuating circumstances can substantially impact the balance of liability in a rear end collision claim. If you suffered serious injuries in a rear end collision, you should consult with a car accident lawyer to help you better understand the circumstances of your accident and how it could impact your claim.
Decreasing the Risk of Rear End Collisions
As the front driver, you may feel that you can do little to decrease your risk of a rear end collision. However, any time you drive, you can take important steps to decrease accident risk, including the risk of rear end collisions.
- Do not drive distracted. Driving while talking on your cell phone, eating, or even becoming too engaged in a conversation within the vehicle can increase your accident risk. You need adequate time to stop even if the vehicle in front of you slams on the brakes abruptly. Paying attention to the road can make it easier for you to respond appropriately.
- Pull off the road if you become fatigued. Driving fatigued can cause almost as much risk as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, decreasing your ability to operate your vehicle safely.
- Consider a collision avoidance system. Modern vehicles come complete with collision avoidance systems that can help decrease the risk of rear end collisions and other types of accidents. Collision avoidance systems can decrease the risk of rear end collisions by as much as 40 percent. Collision avoidance systems, which come on many new vehicles, can help prevent collisions in a variety of ways. These systems may brake automatically when approaching a potential obstacle in the road, preventing one vehicle from slamming into another. Others may issue an alert to the driver of the vehicle, giving him more time to respond to potential accident risks. Auto braking has a more significant influence on accident rates than simple collision warning systems, perhaps because drivers do not have adequate time to respond to those warnings. These systems also offer the advantage of substantially slowing the vehicle before a collision, even if the auto braking system cannot stop the vehicle completely.
- Leave plenty of room. If you find yourself behind another vehicle on the road, make sure you leave adequate room for that vehicle to maneuver. Ideally, you want to leave at least two seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. At slow speeds, you may inch closer to the front vehicle. As you speed up, however, you will need more room to maneuver safely. Backing off and leaving more room between you and the next vehicle can keep you both safer.
- Practice avoiding road hazards. Make a habit of scanning the road and considering how you will avoid potential hazards if they arise. Ask yourself, “How would I respond if the car in front of me slams on its brakes?” Not only will this increase the odds that you will respond appropriately if another vehicle does perform an unsafe maneuver, it can help encourage safer driving practices, which will decrease accident risk every time you hit the road.
- Try to avoid slamming on your brakes. Maintain awareness of the vehicles around you, including those behind you. When possible, try to leave adequate stopping room for those other vehicles. Pay particular attention when you have a big truck behind you, since these vehicles may need more room to slow down or stop than a standard passenger vehicle. You should also make a habit of slowing down gradually when you reach intersections, toll booths, or other areas with slower traffic. When you slow down, you decrease both the chance that someone will slam into you from behind and the risk that you will hit someone else.
- Check your brake lights. Make checking your brake lights a regular part of your driving routine. Periodically, make sure they remain in full working order and do not need to be replaced. Even missing one brake light may increase your risk of a rear-end collision. Missing both may substantially increase accident risk.
- Get out of the way of drivers behaving aggressively. Often, aggressive drivers will slam into you because they travel at high rates of speed or, in some cases, become frustrated with your driving. If you notice a driver behind you becoming increasingly aggressive, move out of the way, if possible. You may need to pull off the road and allow an aggressive driver to pass to help decrease your overall accident risk. If an aggressive driver tailgates you deliberately, reduce your risk of speed and pull off the road at a safe location. Avoid getting out of your vehicle until you know the other driver has moved away.
- Pay particular attention around emergency vehicles, big trucks, and other large vehicles on the road. Take the time to read warning stickers on the back of vehicles, including those that warn of intent to stop at railroad tracks. If you know the vehicle in front of you will stop soon, you may need to slow down to give you more room to respond.
- Secure your cargo properly. Shifting cargo can make your vehicle increasingly difficult to brake, which can, in turn, slow down your ability to respond to an accident. Properly secured cargo, on the other hand, should not move around while you drive.
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What Should You Do After a Rear End Collision?
When another vehicle slams into yours, you may struggle with how to respond in the immediate aftermath. Follow these key steps to protect yourself in the aftermath of an accident.
- Do not leave the scene of the accident. Whether you slammed into the other vehicle from behind or they slammed into you, do not simply leave the scene of the accident, even if you believe that no damage occurred to the other vehicle. You need to speak with the occupants of the other vehicle to decide how to proceed even in the event of a low-speed collision.
- Exchange insurance information. Try taking a picture of the other driver’s license and insurance cards with your cell phone. These photos will make that more easily accessible if you need it later. Even if you believe no serious damage occurred during the accident, exchange insurance information. You may need to contact the other driver’s insurance company if you discover problems later.
- Seek medical attention. Following a rear end collision, seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you believe you suffered a serious injury, you may need to summon an ambulance to the scene of the accident. In a less-serious accident, you may choose to visit urgent care or to transport yourself to the hospital, especially if no serious damage occurred to your vehicle. In many cases, serious injuries, including serious symptoms of whiplash or spinal cord damage, may not show up at the scene of the accident. By seeking medical attention, you can ensure that you suffered no more serious injuries than originally noted during the accident. When you seek medical attention, you will also create a record of the accident that may prove valuable if you need to seek compensation later. Make sure that you keep track of all of your medical records following any type of auto accident, including medical bills, any assessments made by the doctor, and copies of any scans or reports.
- Contact your insurance company. Any time you suffer involvement in a car accident, including a rear end collision, you should notify your insurance company. Often, your insurance company can help you navigate the claims process and even get funds in your hands sooner.
- Contact a lawyer. If you suffered serious injuries in a rear end collision, you need a lawyer on your side. An attorney can help better determine the cause of the accident, establish who bears responsibility, and help you better understand the compensation you deserve for your injuries. The sooner you contact an attorney after your accident, the sooner the law firm can start working on your behalf. Often, this will help you increase the compensation you receive or get money in your hands faster after an accident.
Rear end collisions can cause everything from minor property damage to serious, long-lasting injuries. When possible, take steps to avoid rear end collisions, including both accidents caused by you and accidents caused by the driver behind you. If you cannot avoid rear end collisions, contact a lawyer as soon as possible to help you seek the compensation you deserve. Clearwater Location 800 N Belcher Rd. Clearwater, FL 33765 Phone: (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/florida-car-accident-lawyer/