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What Causes Most Rear-End Accidents?

Published on Jan 27, 2023 by Thomas Law Offices.

What Causes Most Rear-End Accidents?

Were you recently involved in a car accident? If so, it likely involved being hit from behind. Rear-end accidents are the most common type of car crash in the United States, and the injuries and damages associated with these types of collisions tend to be severe.

We at Thomas Law Offices want everyone to be as safe as possible when traveling through the Chicago area. Below are the causes of most rear-end accidents in our state and tips for how to stay safe on the road.

The Most Common Causes of Rear-End Accidents

Approximately one-third of all traffic crashes are rear-end accidents. The term rear-end accident describes the physical mechanics of this type of collision, which is when the front bumper of one vehicle strikes the rear bumper of another. There is no single cause of rear-end accidents, and instead, we can look to a number of factors.


One of the most common causes of rear-end accidents is tailgating. Tailgating is when one vehicle drives much too close to another, leaving insufficient room for the rear vehicle to come to a full and complete stop if the leading vehicle stops suddenly.

You should always leave a minimum of three seconds of driving time between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. This is known as the three-second rule and can be measured by performing the following tasks:

  • Select a stationary object on the side of the road.
  • Watch the vehicle in front of you, and begin counting seconds when its rear bumper clears the object.
  • Stop counting when your front bumper reaches the object. If less than three seconds pass, reduce your speed, increase your following distance, and check again.

Three seconds of driving time is only a safe following distance if driving conditions are ideal, visibility is clear, and roads are dry. If there is traffic, limited visibility, poor weather, slick roads, or you are driving at night, you should reduce your following distance to at least five or six seconds between vehicles.

Never tailgate or drive too close to another driver, as doing so puts you at an increased risk of causing a rear-end accident. If you were hit by a tailgating driver, contact Thomas Law Offices as soon as possible so we can begin collecting evidence for your case before it disappears.

Distracted Driving

We live in a society full of distractions. You might have half a dozen different things vying for your attention at any given moment. While it can be hard to stay focused on just one thing at a time, you should never allow distractions to affect your attention when you are behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Distracted driving is a common cause of rear-end accidents, as a driver who is not giving their full attention to the road will not be able to react to a stopped vehicle in time to avoid a collision. Distractions that frequently contribute to rear-end collisions include:

  • Texting, emailing, or posting on social media
  • Taking pictures or videos
  • Talking on the phone, even on a hands-free device
  • Reaching for an item
  • Speaking with passengers or children in the backseat
  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the radio or looking for a song on your phone

When traveling at 55 mph, the time it takes to read or send a single text message is equivalent to driving 360 feet with your eyes closed. That’s the length of an average football field.

It can be difficult to prove that a driver rear-ended you because they were distracted. Thomas Law Offices knows where to look to find evidence of distraction, including cell phone records that might prove texting and driving.


State officials set speed limits based on several factors, including driving speed studies, road type, and traffic volume. These limits are the maximum speeds that it is safe to travel, not a suggested minimum. Despite this, many people drive significantly faster than the posted speed limit. Ignorance of the speed limit is not an excuse for speeding, as the state of Illinois sets a statutory speed limit of 30 mph when traveling on urban streets where no signs are posted.

Speeding is never safe. The faster you drive, the longer it takes to slow down and stop when faced with an emergency, like a stopped vehicle or child in the road.

There are also situations where a driver may be speeding even when traveling at or below the posted speed limit. Speed limits are only for ideal driving conditions. Adverse driving conditions, including times of limited visibility, wet or icy roads, or dangerous weather events, call for lowering your speed.

Aggressive Driving

Angry or aggressive drivers tend to drive much faster than everyone else on the road and may engage in other dangerous driving habits, including:

  • Speeding
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Running stop signs or red lights
  • Passing on the right or in turn lanes
  • Tailgating or following too close
  • Cutting off other drivers
  • Ignoring the right of way
  • Honking the horn
  • Yelling or making rude gestures at other drivers
  • Brake checking (pulling in front of another driver and quickly applying the brakes)

An aggressive driver may be driving too quickly or recklessly to notice a stopped or slowed driver, putting them at a heightened risk of causing a rear-end collision. Drivers engaging in road rage may even purposely hit the rear of another vehicle, drive so close that a collision is unavoidable, or cause another driver to rear-end them by brake checking.

Being involved in a crash with an aggressive driver is not only scary, but it is also dangerous. If you do not feel safe after an accident, stay in your vehicle and call 911 right away. Ask that an officer be sent to the scene to help facilitate the communication of important information regarding insurance, driver’s licenses, and more.

Thomas Law Offices also recommends using your phone to record any aggressive behavior from the other driver, such as swearing, gesturing, or threats of physical violence.

Who Is Responsible for Damages in a Chicago Rear-End Accident?

Illinois state law presumes that the person who strikes the rear of another vehicle is at fault and therefore liable for all damages in a rear-end accident. If you were hit from behind by another driver, you should be able to hold them responsible for your lost wages, medical expenses, and more.

Matters of liability are less clear when the driver in the rear claims they were not responsible for the accident. However, we know there are cases where aggressive or reckless drivers have cut off or brake-checked other people, forcing them into a collision. If you were the rear driver in a rear-end accident but were not at fault, contact Thomas Law Offices as soon as possible.

The window to collect evidence in a rear-end accident case is limited. If you do not act quickly, you may lose out on the opportunity to find evidence crucial to proving the leading vehicle was at fault. Otherwise, you might be legally responsible for the other driver’s damages.

Securing Compensation for a Rear-End Accident

Were you injured because of any of the above causes of rear-end accidents? If so, you are likely already familiar with the physical, financial, and emotional aftermath of a serious crash. Our team at Thomas Law Offices understands the unfair financial burden this creates, which is why we have dedicated our legal practice to representing injury victims, including those hurt in car crashes.

The time to take action is now. Contact a car accident lawyer at our Chicago office to schedule a free consultation. We never charge a fee for the first meeting, and discussing your case during your initial evaluation does not create an obligation to move forward with our law firm.

Free Case Evaluation

At Thomas Law Offices, our personal injury attorneys recognize that our potential clients are likely going through some of the most difficult times of their lives. We don't want you to have to worry about paying out of pocket for legal advice when you're just starting to learn your legal rights and options. That's why we provide free case evaluations. We'll offer our expert advice about your potential case and walk you through how we can help you.

Call us or fill out the form below to tell us about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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