I can't help but think this is a common reason why species fail out of Drake's Equation. Just looking at Earth, and the algae growing on our some of our space facilities, shows that life is both creative and persistent -- which means pretty much every possible habitat was, is, or will be inhabited. Most of those will be only microorganisms, but they're still alive. Life tends toward increasing complexity; it's a syncretic process. Thus, in any reasonably favorable environment, it tends toward intelligence. (Life has a much broader definition of "reasonably" than humans do.) Some intelligence species are highly prone to making and using tools, but others couldn't care less.
The problem, you perceive, is that the more complicated something becomes, the easier it breaks down. A generalist species almost always survives calamities. It's the specialists that die off. Consider how many species evolve, their lifespan, and their ultimate demise. Civilizations and technologies are complicated. They have an overwhelming tendency to go kaboom. Look at the history of human politics and you can see how often civilizations crash and burn. Look at the history of science and you can see that it is much more common for inventions to blow up in someone's face than to work the first time. While we do not know the lifespan of alien civilizations, we can extrapolate that their failure rate is probably somewhere in the vicinity of the aforementioned examples.
On the bright side, there are trillions of stars, many of which have planetary systems, of which a lot can be inhabited by something. Evidently God gets bored with Level 1 microbes and Level 2 beetles and rolls dice by the truckload, figuring that somebody's gotta get straight 20s sooner or later and level up to starfaring.