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Car Crash Contributing Factors in North Carolina

LeeAnn Riddle   |  March 19, 2019   |  

Car Accident Stats in North Carolina

Each year, the North Carolina DMV compiles auto accident statistics in North Carolina. The intent is to publish statistics regarding auto injuries, crashes and fatalities in an attempt to get more North Carolinians to keep safety top of mind when driving our state’s roads and highways.

In this quick guide, we’ll highlight some of the most important car accident statistics and car crash causes in North Carolina.

Crash Statistics in North Carolina

Leading causes of car crashes in North Carolina include distracted driving, speeding, and alcohol.In 2020, there were 247,214 crashes on North Carolina roadways, 1,658 of these crashes were fatal and 105,382 included injuries to drivers or passengers. Vehicle crashes were down in 2020 from 2019 (there were 285,074 auto accidents in North Carolina in 2019). In part, this may be due to the fact that there were not as many people traveling on the roads in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with less travel, many North Carolina drivers were injured or killed in auto accidents.

What Are the Most Common Crash Factors in NC?

Seat Belt Use 

Among drivers and front-seat passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%, and cut the risk of serious injury by around 50%. Seat belts help prevent drivers and passengers from being ejected in a crash, help your body match the speed of your vehicle, distribute impact force, and protect your brain and spine.

People not wearing seat belts are 30 times more likely to be ejected during a automobile accident. These incidents typically result in very serious and sometimes fatal injury.

Seat belt use greatly affects the fatality level of a crash. Of the 1,658 fatalities in which seatbelt data exists, 47% – or 545 – were unbelted in North Carolina in 2020.


Drinking and driving in North Carolina is against the law — and is also extremely dangerous, both to the driver, passengers, and those in other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and others. In North Carolina, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while impaired or with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher.

Furthermore, North Carolina is a zero-tolerance state for intoxication for people under 21 years old. This means that any evidence of alcohol intoxication in someone under 21 is sufficient for conviction. Overall, 11,475 crashes in North Carolina in 2020 (4.6% of all crashes) involved alcohol. Moreover, alcohol-related crashes killed a total of 412 people, 24.8% of all fatalities on the roadways in NC.

Alcohol-involved accidents also resulted in 7,426 injuries, or 7.0% of all injuries. It is safe to say that alcohol-related crashes are more likely to be fatal than other crashes.

Riddle & Brantley attorneys have handled many, many heartbreaking cases involving victims of drunk driving accidents. Never drive under the influence of alcohol, and do not get in a vehicle with a driver who is intoxicated. If you or others are drinking outside the home, having a designated driver is always a good idea.

Excessive Speed

The crash rate is higher for vehicles that drive faster than other traffic on North Carolina roads. Excessive speed caused 18,340 crashes, 7.4% of all crashes in 2020. Speeding also caused 8,902 injuries and 416 fatalities.  Although these numbers are down from 2019 (perhaps due to the pandemic limiting the number of people traveling), excessive speed still causes many accidents, injuries, and deaths. Higher speeds increase your chances of losing control or swerving into oncoming traffic.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is the act of driving while engaging in activities that distract the driver’s attention away from the road. The following are examples of distracted driving:

  • Talking on cell phones (including hands-free devices)
  • Texting while driving
  • Interacting with the GPS, navigation system, Apple CarPlay, or Android Auto
  • Talking to or engaging with passengers
  • Changing a radio station
  • Taking your eyes off the road
  • Eating while driving
  • Putting make-up on
  • Engaging with pets in the car
  • Drinking and driving

There are many, many more examples. Distracted driving caused 44,128 crashes in North Carolina in 2020, 17.9% of all crashes. Overall, distracted driving caused 18,552 injuries and 157 deaths in North Carolina.

At Riddle & Brantley, our North Carolina car accident attorneys have handled countless cases involving distracted driving, many of which resulted in serious injury and even death. These are heartbreaking cases, especially because they could easily have been avoided. Never assume that that other drivers on the road are paying attention. Stay alert and concentrate on the road, other vehicles, and your surroundings to stay safe.

“Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents in North Carolina. These are heartbreaking cases and we’re ready to help.”

Gene Riddle, attorney

Which Holiday Has the Most Crashes?

North Carolina DMV numbers regarding crashes over a holiday period are inconsistent in that statistics for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, for example, run from 6 PM on December 31st to midnight on January 1st. In contrast, other holidays encompass entire weekends, or even four- to five-day spans. Therefore, it is difficult to calculate which holiday has the most auto accidents in North Carolina.

In 2020 in North Carolina there were:

  • 702 crashes occurred in a 6-hour span during New Year’s Eve
  • 1,641 crashes over the four-day Memorial Day weekend
  • 1,453 crashes on Fourth of July weekend
  • 1,854 crashes on Labor Day weekend
  • 2,828 crashes over the four-day Christmas holiday
  • 2,713 crashes over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday

Have You Been Injured in an Auto Accident in North Carolina?

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in North Carolina, Riddle & Brantley is ready to help. Our law firm has over 37 years of experience helping the people of North Carolina receive the compensation they deserve.

Since 2000 alone, we’ve recovered more than $665 million in compensation for our clients (see disclaimer below), including:

  • $2,750,000 — Attorney Donald Dunn secured a settlement of $2 million through arbitration in a major car accident case that resulted in serious injury. The settlement was followed by a separate $1,000,000 declaratory judgment against the insurance company.
  • $3,650,000 — In a rare rear-end collision that resulted in death, Riddle & Brantley represented surviving family members and secured $3.65 million on their behalf in a hard-fought case. We filed a lawsuit and ultimately settled the case with defense counsel at mediation.
  • $1,950,000 — Attorney Gene Riddle and late attorney Gene Jenkins represented a woman who was struck by a cement truck while walking in a parking lot. She suffered serious injuries, sustaining multiple broken bones. We brought in an accident reconstructionist to prove liability and secured $1.95 million in a negotiated settlement with the insurance company.

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Call us at 1-800-525-7111 or fill out the form below for a FREE, no-obligation consultation with an experienced NC car accident attorney. There is never an upfront fee, and we don’t get paid unless we recover compensation for you. At Riddle & Brantley, we believe Justice Counts in North Carolina, and we are ready to help however we can.

*** Disclaimer: The results mentioned are intended to illustrate the type of cases handled by the firm. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to constitute a promise or guarantee of a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case.