What Should You Do in a Single-Vehicle Accident?

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Updated June 3, 2022

Single vehicle accident: portrait of a straight road

When you’re driving, what scares you the most? Maybe you’re scared of texting teenagers, drunk drivers, or sleep-deprived truckers sideswiping you.

As it turns out, the driver you should fear most is you. While many drivers fear they’ll be hit by a red-light runner or a distracted driver, more than half of traffic deaths nationwide happen in single-car accidents

Find out the major causes of single-vehicle accidents and what you can do if they happen to you.

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What Are the Major Causes of Single-Vehicle Accidents?

Understanding the different types of accidents that can cause a single-car accident can make you more aware when you’re driving. This caution may help you avoid your own single-car crash. However, some incidents are unavoidable or out of your hands. Here are some of the most common causes of accidents involving a single motor vehicle.

Run-Off-Road Crashes

A run-off-road crash happens when a car leaves the travel lane, goes off the road entirely, and then hits something or overturns. This is the most common cause of a single-car accident, making up 64.4% of all the single-vehicle crashes in a two-year period analyzed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

If you’re in a run-off-road crash, there’s a good chance it’s your fault. Around 95% of these crashes are caused by something the driver did or didn’t do — not poor weather conditions or vehicle defects.

Some of the most frequent causes of run-off-road crashes or losing control of the vehicle include:

  • Distracted driving (texting and driving, fiddling with the radio, looking at your phone, ignoring traffic laws, etc.)
  • Speeding
  • Falling asleep at the wheel or general drowsiness
  • Inexperience
  • Drunk driving

Rollover Crashes

According to the NHTSA, rollover crashes are particularly violent in nature, and almost all rollover-related fatalities result from single-vehicle crashes. Speeding and/or alcohol are often involved in these auto accidents, and nearly three-quarters of fatal rollovers occur in rural areas with a speed limit of 55 mph or more.

Automakers and government regulators know rollovers are a problem, especially with SUVs. That’s why rollover accidents forced manufacturers to redesign many cars in recent years. You may notice that newer vehicles have beefier pillars holding up the roof. Regulations now require roofs to withstand a force of three times the vehicle’s unloaded weight. For heavier SUVs and trucks, it’s 1.5 times the vehicle weight. 

Hitting an Animal

Single vehicle accident: deer in the middle of a street

Single-vehicle collisions with a deer or other animal are more common than you might think, especially if you live in states with more wildlife or rural areas. The odds of hitting an animal are the greatest in these states (according to State Farm):

While a white-tailed deer may look like a fragile woodland creature, it weighs about as much as a person. An adult male weighs 200 pounds, on average, and an adult female weighs around 150 pounds. Cars can sustain considerable damage in collisions with deer, often thousands of dollars worth.

To avoid single-vehicle accidents with deer, remain especially wary at dawn and dusk when they’re most active and in October, November, and December. If you see tell-tale eyes glowing in the woods along the road, slow down. Also, deer travel in herds, so where you see one deer, you should expect several more.

What Should You Do After a Single-Vehicle Accident?

Crashed car on the side of a road

When you’re involved in an accident with another driver, a mildly complicated but straightforward ritual ensues. You check your car, exchange names and contact information with the other motorist, make a report with law enforcement, and file a claim with your insurance company if necessary.

But what about a single-car crash?

When you’re the only one involved in a crash, you need to act quickly. First, assess your injuries. Can you move? Are you bleeding? If you’re not sure how badly you’re hurt, call 911 as soon as possible for assistance. Avoid moving as well, as this can aggravate certain injuries.

Next, assess your safety. Is your vehicle totally out of travel lanes and away from oncoming traffic? If possible, move your car to the side of the road. If it’s malfunctioning or otherwise inoperable, get yourself to a safe area so long as no other traffic is present. Don’t forget to turn on the hazard lights and use flares if you have them.

Then, call the police — yes, even for a single-vehicle crash. It’s important to have an official record of what happened. Did you swerve to avoid another driver? Were there potholes or other problems with the road? Be your own witness: Take photos of the scene and write down the time of day, the speed you were going, and any hazardous road conditions or problems with your car you observed.

Filing a Single-Car Accident Insurance Claim

Worried woman talking on the phone after a car accident

Will insurance cover a single-vehicle accident? That depends. If you collide with an object like a tree, a guardrail, or a deer, collision coverage or comprehensive coverage should pay for property damage or damage to your car. However, this depends on the wording in your policy. Your premiums may increase since it will likely be considered an at-fault accident.

No-fault states require that you have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which may cover some of your medical bills after a single-car accident. If a passenger is hurt in a single-car accident, they can make a claim against the driver’s insurance policy. But they’ll only be covered up to the limit on the policy.

How to Avoid Single-Car Accidents

Happy woman driving a car

The good news about single-vehicle accidents is that they’re often avoidable. Defensive driving is always an intelligent way to get from Point A to Point B unscathed. However, you can also engage in other best practices to avoid a solo car crash:

  • Get a good night’s rest: Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep before driving.
  • Drive the right speed for conditions: In dark or poorly lit areas and construction zones or during inclement weather, ease off the accelerator.
  • Use hands-free texting and calling: Alternatively, you can lock your phone in the glove box if you’re too tempted to look at your phone.
  • Avoid drinking and driving: Even if you don’t feel intoxicated, a rideshare or taxi service is always the better option.
  • Don’t overcompensate: If you have to swerve to avoid another motorist or an animal, don’t cut back too far. Overcorrection can cause you to lose control or roll over.

Car Insurance and Erring on the Side of Caution

While attentive driving is the greatest defense against single-car accidents, sometimes, they’re unavoidable. Fortunately, that’s just what auto insurance covers. With collision, comprehensive, or full coverage auto insurance, you can file a claim, recoup your losses, and learn a valuable lesson about driving.

Not sure if you have the coverage you need for a single-vehicle accident? Upgrading your insurance coverage or just finding a better deal can make a world of difference. With Compare.com, you can find cheap but excellent coverage that gels with your budget and insurance needs. It’s fast, easy, free, and can even help you find a policy that protects you from deer!

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