Top 8 Most Common Reasons for Car Accidents in Philadelphia

Across the United States, traffic accidents account for a large number of injuries and fatalities every year, with over 36,000 fatalities reported in 2019. The state of Pennsylvania ranks 6th in the nation for fatalities due to traffic accidents. 

Philadelphia County sees a large percentage of these accidents, with over 11,120 traffic accidents in 2019, which claimed the lives of over 86 people and injured another 7,410. Traffic accidents in Philadelphia can be caused by a variety of factors, but these top eight causes are the ones that account for the largest percentage of accidents in Philadelphia County. 

1. COVID-19 and Traffic Accidents in Philadelphia

Vehicles on the road decreased by about 40% by mid-April of 2020 due to stay-at-home restrictions imposed by the pandemic. You would expect that this decrease in driving would result in fewer accidents, but Philadelphia County actually saw its worst year in recent history, recording 120 fatalities due to traffic accidents in 2020. 

This may be in part because the COVID-19 crisis caused increased alcohol consumption, leading to potentially more drunk drivers. In addition, the decrease in auto usage has led to less congested roadways. This allows the drivers that remain on the road to drive at higher speeds, causing more people to drive above the speed limit.


2. Unrestricted Traffic Flow on Large Arterial Streets

Philadelphia has numerous large arterial streets with largely unrestricted traffic flow. These include streets like Kelly Drive or Roosevelt Boulevard. In 2016, Philadelphia launched Vision Zero, a plan to reduce traffic deaths in Philadelphia. Vision Zero has identified that 80% of traffic deaths and severe injuries occur on just 12% of streets in Philadelphia.


3. Distracted Driving 

Distracted driving remains one of the top causes of accidents across the United States. In Pennsylvania alone, distracted driving caused nearly 14,000 accidents in 2019. 

Distracted driving is more than just texting or looking at a phone while behind the wheel. It can include:

  • Eating
  • Putting on makeup
  • Adjusting the navigation or entertainment system


4. Drunk Driving

While distracted driving caused more accidents in 2019, drunk driving caused more accident-related fatalities. In Philadelphia, there were 28 alcohol-related fatalities in 2019. People all too often believe that having just two or three drinks is not enough to impair them, when in fact just having one drink can impair someone’s ability to drive safely.  


5. Drowsy Driving

While it doesn’t get as much attention as distracted driving or drunk driving, driving while drowsy can be just as deadly. In fact, driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous if not more dangerous than driving while drunk, and in controlled studies, drunk and drowsy driving resulted in a similar number of crashes. 


6. Speeding

Speeding caused nearly 30,000 accidents in Pennsylvania in 2019, and slowing down traffic is one of Vision Zero’s top priorities. Speed is the number one contributing factor that determines if an accident will be fatal, and is especially lethal if the victim is a pedestrian or a cyclist. 


7. Aggressive Driving or Road Rage

Changing lanes rapidly, tailgating or illegal passing of other cars is another leading cause of accidents. Aggressive driving may or may not be associated with road rage, which occurs when a driver gets angry at another vehicle on the road. This can result in behaviors like cutting in front of a car aggressively or failing to yield. In Philadelphia, around 36% of traffic-related deaths are the result of aggressive driving.  

Lance Cpl. Orrin Farmer demonstrates road rage. Road rage is the response to what drivers consider poor, inconsiderate, or dangerous driving. Photo illustration by Cpl. Brianna Turner

8. Poor Vehicle Maintenance

If a vehicle is not properly maintained, it may cause mechanical failures that cause an accident. These include:

  • Brake failure
  • Tire blowouts
  • Engine failure


How To Avoid Being Part of These Statistics

Obeying the speed limit, never driving while sleepy or after drinking, and staying focused on the road while driving can go a long way in keeping you safe while driving. But ultimately, you cannot control the behavior of all the other drivers on the road with you, and staying alert can only offer so much protection.

If you or your loved ones were injured in a car accident in Philadelphia, call the lawyers at Thistle Law today. We can review your case with a free consultation and help you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries and losses. We can be reached at 215-525-6824 or by filling out our form here.


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