Most Common Cause of Collisions in Phoenix

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: December 9, 2021

Arizona drivers are about the middle of the pack nationally in terms of being bad at what they do. One study places them as the 22nd worst of all of the states. This study looked at traffic fatalities, DUI arrests, and the number of people Googling about how to get out of a traffic ticket.

Even though the number of crashes was down in Arizona in 2020, this was not because drivers in the state suddenly got safer. Instead, COVID lockdowns kept drivers indoors and off the roads for much of the year. Even with the reduced number of accidents, the total traffic fatalities rose in the states, reflecting that people’s driving habits have grown far worse.

The Number of Car Crashes in the Phoenix Area Nears Six Figures

In Maricopa County, the total economic impact of car accidents tops $10 billion each year, including losses from fatalities and injuries. By far, the most car accidents in Arizona happen in Maricopa County. In a recent year, nearly 100,000 car accidents took place in greater Phoenix. This accounts for roughly three out of every four car crashes in Arizona. Approximately one out of every four car accidents result in personal injury.

Phoenix Driving Has Different Risks Than Other Cities

Car accidents in the Valley area may result from some unique Phoenix driving challenges. Even though it is a spread-out area and traffic may not be as bad as it is in other cities, Valley roads are by no means safe.

Many car accidents happen in Phoenix for the same reasons as in other areas. However, local conditions make these bigger risks in the Valley area. It is different driving in a more spread-out desert, although not necessarily less dangerous.

Speeding Is One of the Most Frequent Causes of Accidents

One of the leading causes of car accidents in Phoenix is excessive speed. You can’t do much to avoid an accident when another driver makes a mistake because they are going too fast. Speed is a factor in nearly one of three crashes in the state. Police cited over 43,000 drivers for speeding before a crash in the state. In most cases, only one of the two drivers received a citation after police officers showed up on the scene.

Phoenix roads almost seem to encourage speeding, especially as you get outside of the city. Drivers may let their guard down on long straight stretches of roads near the city. This is especially true when they think that few other drivers are around. The risks in more rural areas are even higher than in the city because motorists tend to drive faster on roads with which they are unfamiliar.

When drivers are speeding, they have less time to process what happens on the road. They often cannot brake in time to avoid hazards in front of them. In addition, they are more likely to lose control of their cars. Their judgment is compromised because things unfold faster than they can react. If you are in the same area as a speeding driver, you are often at their mercy.

Distracted Driving Is on the Rise

More Phoenix motorists are also driving distracted than ever before. They do not put their cell phones down when they are driving. Motorists are the safest with both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel. Every year, the police show up to investigate accidents and determine that thousands of distracted drivers were in Arizona crashes. This is important when the insurance companies determine the cause of the crash.

While drivers pick up their phones anywhere, they are more likely to send a text or make a call when they are on a long stretch of highway. These are commonly outside the city, however, the danger is just the same no matter where a driver is distracted.

Distracted driving is not limited to mobile device usage. Anything that a driver does behind the wheel besides driving can be distracting. This includes things like eating and having a conversation. Twice as many crashes result from distractions inside the vehicle other than mobile phones than from cell phones. Even distractions outside the vehicle commonly cause Phoenix crashes.

Phoenix Weather Poses Challenges to Drivers

Many people think that Phoenix roads are ideal because drivers do not have to contend with the inclement weather that plagues drivers in colder climates. However, the weather is often a cause of Phoenix crashes because extremely hot weather poses its own challenges. When the temperature soars into the triple digits, it presents severe challenges for the car itself. The engine is more likely to overheat. Even more worrisome, the heat can flatten or blow out tires.

In addition, while there is not much rain in Phoenix, it becomes far more dangerous when there is precipitation. Phoenix rain tends to come out of nowhere, and significant amounts can fall. The most dangerous time for drivers is right when heavy rains begin to fall. Roads that were bone dry get very slippery with sudden moisture.

For a desert climate, rain is a factor in many Arizona crashes. Just above five percent of Arizona car crashes happen in the rain, which is quite a high percentage for a desert climate. Phoenix drivers often do not know how to navigate wet conditions since it happens so seldom in the area. In addition, blowing sand can also contribute to Phoenix car accidents.

Wide Roads

Are More Dangerous

Phoenix has many high-capacity roads designed to carry a ton of traffic.

For example, I-10 can have as many as six lanes in each direction through Downtown Phoenix. This allows cars to travel faster than they otherwise can on busier roads. In addition, the wide roads mean that drivers are continuously changing lanes and weaving in and out of traffic.

The same problem exists when you get off the highway. Phoenix has dangerous intersections through which tens of thousands of cars drive each day. For example, busy streets like Camelback Road and McDowell Road have massively busy intersections. On heavy volume days, some of these intersections may have as many as 80,000 cars traverse through them.

Heavy traffic means long lights that drivers fear missing. They think they might just make it if they speed or make a dangerous turn. At many of these intersections, it results in an average of two to three accidents per week. Some of them can be severe.

Bright Sun Can Blind Drivers

Another factor for the high number of car accidents in Phoenix is the sun. Phoenix gets more sunshine than practically every other U.S. city, and it can be blinding at times. Drivers lose the ability to see when the sun is very strong in their eyes. The blinding sun is even more of a problem when the road curves because drivers will miss the turn in the road.

This is why most accidents occur throughout the state when the sun is the brightest. The problem is not necessarily in the morning rush hour or even towards the tail end of the evening one. The hour with the most car accidents in the area is between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. That is when the Valley sun shines at its brightest. The most common type of accident in bright sunshine is a rear-end crash because drivers cannot see the car in front of them to stop in time.

Drunk Driving Is a Problem in Phoenix

There are nearly 5,000 accidents each year in Arizona in which alcohol is a factor. Arizona ranks 20th in the country for the highest drunk driving arrest rate. Arizona has among the harshest DUI laws in the entire country, but they have not eliminated the problem in the state.

DUI can especially be a problem on Phoenix-area roads because drivers will travel at extremely reckless speeds. The design of the roads with long straightaways gives drivers the ability to reach very dangerous speeds. When the straightaways bend into sharp curves, drunk drivers will lose control of their cars.

More than one in every four DUI crashes will cause a fatality because they often occur at high speeds. In one year, nearly 300 people died in Arizona from alcohol-related accidents.

Tourists and Winter Residents Can Cause Crashes

Finally, Phoenix has a very high proportion of people from out of town, either spending the winter in the area for warmer weather or visiting as tourists. These people don’t know the complexities of driving in Phoenix or how to handle local conditions. They may also not know where they are going on the roads. Unfamiliar drivers can be dangerous ones.

These motorists may fiddle with their phones, trying to get directions. They may also not know how to navigate the frightening Phoenix intersections that even experienced local drivers have difficulty with on their best days.

The Important Thing Is Learning the Cause of the Crash

While we have listed the common causes of Phoenix car crashes, this is only part of the picture. The key to your car accident claim is to learn the cause of the crash. Discovering the cause of an accident takes work and investigation. It is one thing to know that rain was a factor in your crash.

However, this is not enough to get you compensation for your injuries. First, you will need to show that another driver did something careless or reckless that caused the crash. Namely, you must show that they acted unreasonably under the circumstances.

You must have an experienced attorney who knows how to get to the bottom of your car crash. They will need to get to work quickly because key evidence can be lost quickly if you do nothing.

At the same time, you are not in the best position to gather it yourself. This is why one of the very early calls that you make after your car crash should be to a lawyer. We know exactly what to do once you call us with your case. We will give you the legal advice you need and can handle the details of your claim. We can determine the cause of a car accident and take strong legal action against the party responsible for your injuries.

In addition, we will also work to keep the insurance company from taking advantage of you by arbitrarily denying your claim or making you an insultingly low offer. We will fight for your legal rights and help you maximize your financial recovery. If the insurance company is playing games, we will not hesitate to turn up the pressure by taking your case to court. Our experienced courtroom advocates practice gloves-off litigation.

Proving how the crash happened is only part of the job. Once you sign a settlement agreement, you cannot go back for more money in the future, making your negotiations even more critical. We can hold the insurance company accountable when it tries to make an extra buck (or thousands of them) at your expense.

Doug Zanes
Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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