What is a major cause of highway accidents?

12 minute read Published on Jun 7, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

What is a major cause of highway accidents?

Highway accidents are one of the most dangerous types of collisions, yet they are also one of the most common types of car accidents. Below, we explain why these accidents occur and offer some safe driving tips so that you can do your best to avoid them in the future.

What makes a highway car accident so dangerous?

There are several factors that make any type of highway car accident, from a head-on collision to a sideswipe accident, more dangerous than other types of collisions. First, when you’re driving on a highway, you’re usually travelling at a higher speed. With the exception of rush hour traffic, posted speed limits on highways tend to be 80 km/h or above. On some highways, drivers may be driving 110 km/h or higher. Anytime you're travelling at high speeds, your odds of getting into an accident increase. In addition, the force of the accident is likely to be greater, which often translates to worse damage. For this reason, highway car accidents may be more likely to result in serious bodily injury, fatalities, and major property damage than accidents on smaller roads.

Further, most highways usually have multiple lanes and require cars to merge onto them. Both of these aspects make highway accidents more dangerous and more common. Merging can be tricky, requiring drivers to get up to an appropriate speed and judge whether it is safe to change lanes or not. To do this, they have to check their blind spot, which is something that many drivers forget to do or do not do adequately. Similarly, since there are multiple lanes on a highway, most drivers will change lanes at some point while driving on this type of road. Whether they want to pass a car ahead of them or merge into the HOV lane, there will likely come a time when you need to change lanes, and again, this increases your odds of getting into an accident.

The most common causes of highway car accidents

Now that you know more about what makes highway car accidents so dangerous, we’re going to dive into the most common causes of car accidents so that you can do your best to avoid this type of accident in the future:

Distracted driving

First up is distracted driving. Distracted driving has long been one of the most common causes of car accidents in Canada, both on small, residential roads and major highways. You can be charged with distracted driving when you engage in any type of driving behaviour that takes your attention off the road. This may include eating, drinking, smoking, texting, tuning the radio, setting your GPS, or adjusting the heat or air conditioning settings.

Any of these behaviours take your focus away from the road, and doing this for even a few seconds can result in a car accident. Imagine if you were looking at your phone and the car in front of you had to stop suddenly. Since your eyes were on your phone, you might not be able to brake in time, resulting in a fender bender car accident. If you want to avoid a car accident on the highway or elsewhere, keep your eyes on the road at all times.


Speeding has been a common cause of highway accidents for a very long time. Luckily, the solution is simple. If you want to avoid being involved in an accident, drive the speed limit. Do not exceed it. All highways will have a posted speed limit. Take note of it and make sure that you do not drive faster than the speed limit. When you speed, you increase the brake time needed, as well as the odds that you will lose control of your car.

Both of these scenarios make it more likely that you will get into a car accident. Plus, as mentioned previously, when accidents occur at high speeds, the repercussions are usually greater. The damage to the cars involved might be more severe, and the drivers, passengers, and pedestrians involved are far more likely to be injured. The odds of a fatality occurring might also go up.

Drunk driving

A third common cause of highway car accidents is drunk driving. Drunk driving is a general term for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Anytime you are above the legal limit, you run the risk of getting into a car accident. Why? Your faculties are diminished which prevents you from being able to drive a car safely. In order to be a responsible driver, you must be able to judge the positions of other cars, react to the road conditions around you, and concentrate on the road in front of you.

While driving impaired, your ability to concentrate or react may be compromised. In addition, your vision may also be impaired when you are drunk or under the influence of drugs. Specifically, you may experience blurred vision or double vision. Visibility is key to avoiding a car accident.

As a driver, you must take steps to increase your visibility, from wearing prescription glasses to using your sun visor or wearing sunglasses when driving in direct sun. Thankfully, it’s easy to avoid driving drunk. You simply call a taxi or get a ride from a friend anytime that you are unable to drive. Even better, if you intend to indulge in drugs or alcohol, do not drive there in the first place. Call a taxi or an Uber or arrange for a friend or family member to be your designated driver. If your car isn’t there, it won’t be an option, and you will need to find another way home.

Aggressive driving

Aggressive driving, which people often refer to as road rage, is another common cause of collisions. When you are angry behind the wheel, your odds of engaging in unsafe driving behaviour are higher. Examples of unsafe driving behaviour include tailgating, speeding, improper lane changes, such as changing lanes without signalling, and repeated honking. In extreme cases, a driver might even become aggressive toward another driver, making a rude gesture at them or even exiting their car and assaulting them.

No matter how far your aggressive driving escalates, it can still increase the odds of an accident. All of these driving behaviours are extremely dangerous and will make you more likely to get involved in a collision. If you get into a car accident and it is discovered that you engaged in aggressive driving, you could be found liable, and as a result, the accident would show up on your driving record and increase your car insurance premium.

Driving while fatigued

Driving while fatigued is far more dangerous than people realize and can easily result in a car accident. If you’re tired and get behind the wheel, your reaction times may be slower. You also may have more trouble concentrating on the road. In some cases, your visibility might even be reduced if your eyelids grow heavy and you start to fall asleep at the wheel. Before you get behind the wheel, assess how tired you are, and if you’re feeling fatigued, grab a cup of coffee, take a short nap, or ask a friend for a ride home.

Bad weather

Driving in inclement or bad weather will also increase your odds of a car accident. When the weather is poor, traction might be reduced, making it harder for your car’s tires to grip the road. This can increase the odds of skidding or hydroplaning and means that it will take you longer to brake and bring your car to a complete stop.

The most dangerous types of weather to drive in include rain, fog, ice, and snow. However, driving in direct sunlight can also be dangerous due to the glare of the sun. Sun glare can also reduce your ability to see other cars and hazards on the road. If you can avoid driving in inclement weather, it is generally best to do so.

However, if you can’t avoid it, then slow down and give drivers extra space. If you live in a city that frequently experiences adverse weather conditions, then you may also want to take additional safety precautions, like installing winter tires on your car. Winter tires have better traction, reducing your odds of getting into an accident when driving in the snow or ice. Plus, you might qualify for a car insurance discount if you install winter tires on your car.

Vehicle maintenance issues

Vehicle maintenance issues can also result in car accidents on the highway. It is the owner’s responsibility to make sure that they properly maintain their car. If it breaks down due to neglect, such as if the tires are too worn or the brakes aren’t working properly and get into an accident, the driver can be found liable for the collision. However, sometimes, a vehicle defect can result in a maintenance issue. In this case, the automaker might be found liable for the accident.

Medical condition

Some medical conditions can interfere with a person’s ability to drive. Thus, if you have certain medical conditions, this could increase your odds of getting into an accident. Physical and mental health issues can reduce your ability to drive safely, such as impaired vision, epilepsy, anxiety, or schizophrenia. Some of these conditions can be managed through prescription medication or glasses. Speak with a doctor if you are concerned that a medical condition might impact your ability to drive and make you more likely to get into a collision.

Driving near road hazards

Driving on roads with hazards can result in highway car accidents. Examples of hazardous road conditions on highways include potholes, manhole covers, sharp curves, surface changes, and construction areas. Anytime that you notice a potential hazard on the road, take care to slow down until you have passed the hazard. Otherwise, the hazard could cause you to lose control of your car.

What injuries can result from a highway car accident?

Highway car accidents can have serious repercussions, including property damage and bodily injury. The injuries that you can sustain after a highway car accident range from mild to severe. However, in most cases, since highway car accidents happen at high speeds, the odds of serious injury go up. In fact, highway car accidents are more likely to result in fatalities. A few of the most common injuries that arise from highway car accidents include:

  • Whiplash
  • Broken bones
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Psychological injuries
  • Burns
  • Road rash
  • Fatalities

If you are concerned that you might be injured following a highway car accident, seek help from a medical professional and monitor yourself for the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Upper back pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Bruising, redness, or discolouration
  • Tenderness or sensitivity to touch
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Changes in personality or behaviour
  • Vision issues
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus (ringing ears)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating
  • Appetite loss

Safe driving tips for the highway

The best way to avoid a highway collision is to follow the safe driving tips below:

Give yourself plenty of space

When you drive at high speeds, you have less time to react. Therefore, it’s imperative that you give yourself as much space as possible. The more space you give yourself, the more time that you will have to brake, swerve, or react in some other way. In turn, this reduces your odds of getting into a collision.

A rule of thumb to follow is to give yourself three seconds’ worth of space between you and the vehicle ahead of you. To judge this, choose a stationary marker on the road, such as a road sign, median, or overpass. Begin counting to three when the car in front of you reaches that marker. Take note of when your car then reaches the marker. If your car reaches the marker before you’ve counted to three, then you are following too closely. However, if your car doesn’t pass until the count of three or after the count of three, then you are travelling at a safe following distance.

Take care to give yourself additional space the faster that you are travelling. You should also do this when driving on a highway in inclement weather or through an area with construction.

Limit all distractions when driving on the highway

The second tip is to limit all distractions when travelling on the highway. This is important on any type of road but is especially important when travelling at high speeds and on multi-lane roads. Remember that distracted driving can be any of the following:

  • Texting or using your cell phone
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Applying makeup
  • Talking on the phone
  • Changing the radio
  • Setting the GPS
  • Adjusting climate controls, e.g. heat and air conditioning

To avoid engaging in these behaviours, put your phone somewhere that you can’t reach it and turn it on silent. In addition, adjust any radio, heating, air conditioning, or GPS settings before you merge onto the highway. Ideally, this should be done while your car is in park or the engine is off.

Scan the road around you

The third tip for highway driving is to make sure that you are aware of the road conditions around you. To do this, you must scan all the lanes ahead and use your rear-view and side-view mirrors. This way, you will have a clear view of the other cars and hazards on the road, which will allow you to avoid colliding with them.

Stay home if the weather is bad

If there is a storm brewing or a lot of snow or rain fell the day before, then staying home might be the safer option. If you must drive, do so safely and take steps to increase visibility, such as by using your windshield wipers and cleaning off all windows and mirrors before getting behind the wheel. You may also want to install snow tires on your car, as these tires offer better traction and grip, making it safer to drive on slick, snow-covered roads.

Determining fault after a highway car accident

If you get into a highway car accident, you must report the car accident. From there, you must inform your insurance provider about the accident. They will give you further instructions on how to file a claim. Once your claim has been submitted, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to your claim, and they will determine the fault. Shared fault can be determined. That said, one party will usually be found more liable than the other. The party that is found more liable, even if it’s only by 1%, is responsible for the costs of the accident.

To determine fault, the insurance adjuster will consider a wide range of factors and evidence, including the police report, weather conditions, road conditions, witness statements, and photos and videos of the accident in question. If one driver is found to have engaged in illegal or reckless driving behaviour at the time of the accident, such as speeding or texting and driving, then the odds of being found liable will go up. They would then need to file a third-party liability car insurance claim with their provider.

It is worth noting that at-fault accidents can have a significant impact on your car insurance rates. If you get into an at-fault highway accident, it will go on your driving record, and you will likely face higher insurance rates until the accident is no longer on your record, which can take a number of years.

If you want to learn more about how highway accidents impact auto insurance rates in Canada, reach out to BrokerLink. One of our licensed insurance advisors can explain how and why insurance agents take your driving record into account when determining your rates. A BrokerLink broker can also give you tips on how to lower your car insurance premium after getting into a highway collision.

Contact BrokerLink to learn more about the major causes of highway accidents

Want to learn more about the most common causes of highway car accidents? You’re in the right place. A BrokerLink insurance advisor can explain how accidents happen and offer all kinds of safe driving tips to help you avoid collisions.

If you get into a collision, we can also give you advice on how to reduce your premium since it could rise after the accident. Further, as car insurance experts, we can explain each type of auto insurance and make a recommendation as to the types that make the most sense for you.

A few types of car insurance that we can help you find include:

Learn more about auto insurance and receive a free car insurance quote by getting in touch with BrokerLink today!

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