A traffic collision, also known as a traffic accident, motor vehicle collision, motor vehicle accident, car accident, automobile accident, Road Traffic Collision (RTC) or car crash, occurs when a vehicle collides with another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, road debris, or other stationary obstruction, such as a tree or utility pole. Traffic collisions may result in injury, death and property damage.
A number of factors contribute to the risk of collision including; vehicle design, speed of operation, road design, and driver skill and/or impairment. Worldwide motor vehicle collisions lead to significant death and disability as well as significant financial costs to both society and the individuals involved.
Many different terms are commonly used to describe vehicle collisions. The World Health Organization use the term road traffic injury,while the U.S. Census Bureau uses the term motor vehicle accidents (MVA) and Transport Canada uses the term "motor vehicle traffic collision". Other terms that are commonly used include auto accident, car accident, car crash, car smash, car wreck, motor vehicle collision (MVC), personal injury collision (PIC), road accident, road traffic accident (RTA), road traffic collision (RTC), road traffic incident (RTI), road traffic accident and later road traffic collision, as well as more unofficial terms including smash-up and fender bender.
In the United States, individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents can be held financially liable for the consequences of an accident, including property damage, injuries to passengers and drivers, and fatalities. Because these costs can easily exceed the annual income of the average driver, most US states require drivers to carry liability insurance to cover these potential costs. However, in the event of severe injuries or fatalities, victims can often seek damages well in excess of the value of insurance.
Additionally, drivers who are involved in a collision frequently receive one or more traffic citations, usually directly addressing any material violations such as speeding, failure to obey a traffic control device, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Convictions for traffic violations are usually penalized with fines, and for more severe offenses, the suspension or revocation of driving privileges. Convictions for alcohol offenses generally result in the revocation or long term suspension of the driver's license, and sometimes jail time and/or mandatory alcohol rehabilitation.