Celebrity Auto Accidents – What are the Top 5?

A serious auto accident is a nightmare scenario. Looking at some tragic celebrity car accidents reinforces the value of auto insurance and provides a lesson in the need for safety behind the wheel. Here is a rundown of five infamous celebrity auto accidents through the years:

Death of Jayne Mansfield

One of Hollywood’s most beautiful starlets, Jane Mansfield was only 34 at the time of her death. On the night of June 28, 1967, Jane left Biloxi, Mississippi following a show at the Gus Stevens Supper Club, with attorney Sam Brody, three children and driver Ronnie Harrison, and headed toward New Orleans for an appearance the following day.

Around 2:25AM on a stretch of US 90, Mansfield’s 1966 Buick Electra plowed into an insecticide truck, killing Harrison, Brody and Mansfield. The children all survived. The top of the Electra was sheared off by the impact, causing Mansfield’s death by cranium and brain avulsion. Whether driver fatigue played a role in the crash is uncertain; but the Mansfield tragedy illustrates the importance of safe driving at night.

The Chappaquiddick Incident

An accident the night of July 18, 1969 ended the life of Mary Jo Kopechne and the presidential hopes of Sen. Edward Kennedy. That night around 11:15PM, Kennedy left a party on Chappaquiddick Island to take Kopechne home. The next morning, his car was found in a tidal channel with Kopechne’s body inside.

After pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident causing injury and serving a suspended sentence, Kennedy decided not to run for president in 1972. His explanation for the accident indicated lack of familiarity with the driving route, which he said led him to inadvertently drive the car off a bridge. The “Chappaquiddick Incident” permanently tarnished Kennedy’s reputation and demonstrated the far-ranging impact an accident can have beyond property damage, injury or death.

Black Sunday at Daytona

Dale Earnhardt, seven-time NASCAR champion and one of the sport’s greatest drivers, was known as “The Intimidator” because of his aggressive, often ruthless racing methods. Near the end of the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt was running third, with teammate Michael Waltrip leading and son Dale Jr. second. Earnhardt worked in the final laps to block Sterling Marlin and others from passing and threatening to take away Waltrip’s impending victory.

A crash in the third turn of the last lap caused the number 3 Chevy to spin out of control, killing Earnhardt. He suffered numerous injuries including a basilar skull fracture that proved fatal. Earnhardt’s death led NASCAR to implement many new safety standards, leading to the development of the “Car of Tomorrow”. The day became known as “Black Sunday” by race fans and proved the need for even the most skilled drivers to always focus on safety.

Princess vs. Paparazzi

Perhaps no one in England’s royal family ever caught the attention of the paparazzi quite like Princess Diana. Even after her divorce from Prince Charles, Di’s every move was still international news. On August 31, 1997, Diana and companion Dodi Fayed were in Paris riding in a Mercedes-Benz W140 limo driven by chauffer Henri Paul, who was driving at high speeds to evade paparazzi when he lost control of the car and crashed, killing all three passengers.

Paul was found to have been legally drunk at the time of the accident. The Royal Courts of London concluded that Paul and the paparazzi shared responsibility for the crash. Significantly, the victims were not wearing seat belts, and the vehicle was traveling over twice the legal limit when it crashed. Di’s death underscores the importance of safe driving behaviors, from avoiding drunk driving to keeping speeds down and wearing seat belts.

James Dean Dies Young

At age 24 in 1955, James Dean was already a Hollywood star, thanks to the successful release of his debut movie, East of Eden and two more films on the way, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. Dean loved fast cars, and by spring 1955 had gotten into road racing.

In September 1955, he replaced his old Porsche 356 with a silver Porsche 550 Spyder. The car had numbers painted on the sides and back, along with his nickname, “Little Bastard”. On September 30, Dean was on his way to a race in Salinas, California along with his mechanic Rolf Wuetherich. The Spyder was pulled over around 3:30PM for speeding; and a few hours later while traveling west on Highway 466, it collided with a Ford Tutor traveling eastward trying to complete a left turn onto Highway 41.

The driver of the Tutor suffered minor injuries; Wuetherich was thrown from the Spyder and sustained serious injuries but survived; and Dean was killed. A promising career and a life were cut short because James Dean chose to drive recklessly.

These and other shocking celebrity auto accidents remind drivers everywhere of the importance of safety. Avoiding accidents saves money as well as preventing property loss and injury. Major insurers like Progressive, Farmers and State Farm incentivize safe driving by offering lower rates, discounts and deductible rebates. Save on auto insurance by focusing on safety.

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