Despite a drop in travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 38,000 people died in car crashes in 2020. This reversed a recent trend of car accidents decreasing annually.

Celebrities get into car accidents just like everyone else. Unsurprisingly, the causes of these car accidents mirror the most common car accident causes for the average person.

Here are ten of the worst celebrity car accidents and the lessons you can learn from them.

Celebrity Car Accidents Involving Impaired Driving

Impaired driving causes over 25% of all fatal car accidents in the U.S. Alcohol and drugs can significantly interfere with your reflexes and decision-making abilities, quadrupling your risk of causing a car crash.

Some celebrities involved in alcohol- or drug-related fatal car crashes include:

Princess Diana

Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris when her driver hit a pillar inside a tunnel at high speed. French officials blamed the driver, whose blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. He also had traces of antidepressants in his blood.

Jackson Pollock

Pollock was one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. He died in a single-car crash when his car hit a tree. He had been drinking gin for several hours before the crash.

Billy Martin

Billy Martin was a baseball player and manager. He was most famous for his time with the New York Yankees. He died in a single-car crash on a steep, winding driveway after leaving a bar. Both Martin and his companion were drunk at the time of the crash.

Sam Kinison

Sam Kinison, one of the most famous comedians from the 1980s, died in an alcohol-related car crash in 1992. Kinison struggled with drugs and alcohol but was sober at the time of his accident. His vehicle was hit head-on by a car driven by an underage drunk driver.

Celebrity Car Accidents Involving Speeding

Speeding is one of the most common — and most dangerous — driver behaviors. Speeding plays a role in about the same percentage of traffic fatalities as drugs and alcohol.

Some celebrity car crashes that resulted from speeding include:

James Dean

Arguably one of the most famous Americans to die in a car crash, Dean loved fast cars. He died in a two-vehicle car crash on his way to a racetrack where he was scheduled to race. Although witnesses disagreed on how fast Dean was driving when he hit the other car, he had received a speeding ticket just a few hours before his death.

Paul Walker

Walker found stardom in the Fast and Furious movie franchise. He died in a speed-related crash while driving a Porsche that he had allegedly modified to use racing fuel. According to investigators, Walker’s car was going about 94 miles per hour when it hit a lamppost.

Ryan Dunn

Dunn was a reality TV star and stunt performer. He died in a single-vehicle crash where he missed a turn near a ravine going nearly 100 miles per hour. His car jumped the guardrail and flew into the ravine, where it hit a tree.

Celebrity Car Wrecks Involving Distracted Driving

Distracted driving plays a role in about 10% of fatal car accidents. Distractions can come from both inside and outside the vehicle. 

Two celebrities who died in distracted driving accidents include:

Ernie Kovaks

Ernie Kovacs was one of the most famous TV and radio personalities in the 1950s. He died in a single-vehicle car crash in 1962. Circumstantial evidence suggests he was either lighting a cigar or reaching for a cigar when he crashed.

Jayne Mansfield

Famous actress Jayne Mansfield died in a truck accident in 1967. Her car crashed into the back of a semi-truck trailer due to a dense fog caused by weather and a mosquito-fogging machine.

Celebrity Accidents Due to Riding Without a Helmet

Motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death in a motorcycle accident by as much as 42%. They also reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury.

T.E. Lawrence

The real Lawrence of Arabia died in a motorcycle accident in 1935. He was riding his motorcycle without a helmet while trying to avoid hitting two children on the road.

What Can We Learn from History?

These terrible crashes robbed the world of great talent. But they can also serve to raise public awareness and guide drivers to adopt safer driving behaviors. At a minimum, drivers should avoid distractions, speeding, and intoxicating substances while driving. Motorcycle riders should wear helmets while riding.