Many factors will influence car crash statistics, and they can fluctuate over time. Compared with the rest of the nation, California has a high rate of car accidents.
This is partly due to the high population, with over 39 million people calling California home. With a large population, you can expect a high rate of car accidents, and typically, over 250,000 crashes occur yearly.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), California has one of the highest accident rates in the country. It might surprise you to learn that the fatality rates within the state have not changed much over the last decade, but never-the-less remain high compared to other parts of the country. Let’s take a look.
California Car Accident Fatality Statistics
As populations grow, an increase in motor vehicle accidents is expected. However, it is not always as drastic as you may initially think. Why is that?
Even though populations may increase, as technology advances and the demand for new laws and regulations grow, it can counteract rising crash rates. Let’s look at some numbers.
- Ten years ago, in 2013, with a population of 38 million residents, California car crashes resulted in approximately 3,000 fatalities.
- In 2020, the year of the pandemic, with so many drivers being off the road, there were still 3,980 traffic fatalities in California which only increased to 4,285 deaths in 2021.
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car accident fatalities in California rose to an estimated 4,407 in 2022. Note, at present, this number has not been finalized and is still subject to change as additional data comes in.
Although the numbers have technically increased in the last decade, given the increase in population and registered drivers, it has yet to rise as much as one might expect. This may be attributed to several factors, but expert opinions on this matter vary.
Still, it could be due to advanced safety technology, vehicle features, and improved and enhanced traffic regulations and laws. Whatever the reasons, it might be slightly comforting to know the overall statistics have not changed drastically for the worse.
Ultimately, regardless of statistics, if you or a loved one is the victim of a car crash, you are likely most concerned with recovering from your injuries, determining the cause of your crash, getting compensation to help pay your mounting bills, and moving forward with your life.
Factors Causing California Car Accidents
Let’s look at some common causes of car crashes in California.
Distracted driving consistently ranks as the top cause of car accidents in the United States.
Despite being illegal, cell phone use remains one of the most commonly cited forms of distracted driving. In fact, 14% of all fatal car crashes nationwide involve the improper use of a cell phone while driving, including texting, talking on the phone, sending emails, posting on social media, and more.
Other common examples of distracted driving include:
- Reckless driving (e.g., tailgating, weaving between lanes, racing);
- Applying makeup while driving;
- Eating or drinking; and
- Searching for an item elsewhere in the car or glove compartment.
Distracted driving can include virtually any behavior or conduct that causes a driver’s attention to be diverted from the road, even for a split second. This is likely why it remains one of the top contributors to car crash statistics—because it is so easy to get distracted, if for only a moment or two.
In 2022, there were 1,069 fatalities from drunk driving in California. In other words, 30% of traffic fatalities in California were due to alcohol-related accidents. Unfortunately, alcohol-related deaths increased from 949 in 2019 to over 1,000 in 2022.
This happened despite a continued push to educate the public on the hazards of drunk driving, to encourage ride-sharing or public transportation, and to strictly enforce the laws.
In California, as in the rest of the country, drunk driving is illegal, but sadly this does not stop people from getting behind the wheel under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you love is the victim of a drunk driving collision, you should consult an accident attorney immediately.
Notably, as recreational marijuana use becomes increasingly popular in California and among neighboring states, we are sure to see a change in drugged-driving accident statistics.
Other causes of car crashes include the following:
- Failing to yield the right-of-way,
- Improper turning, and
- Failure to obey traffic signs or signals (e.g., running a stop sign or red light).
While many reasons for car crashes are common among states, some are unique and more prevalent in California.
California Freeway Driving
California is known for its multiple-lane freeways, frequently riddled with heavy traffic. With freeway driving comes the inherent risk of significant and severe accidents due to higher speeds.
The risks can increase significantly in areas with curves, hills, or lower visibility. Vehicles traveling at high rates of speed, coupled with distracted driving habits, can lead to a devastating freeway accident.
Improving Safety Laws and Regulations
California drivers must adhere to traffic laws and regulations to obtain a driver’s license. Most people understand it is against the law to speed, drive drunk, or act recklessly behind the wheel and that there are rules to punish these behaviors.
In exchange for the privilege of driving, you agree to follow traffic laws and regulations. California highway patrol and local law enforcement take driving infractions seriously to prevent these dangerous accidents. Improving laws and regulations and increasing enforcement is a priority for California law enforcement agencies.
Improving Infrastructure to Decrease Accident Rates
Along with improving and updating safety laws and regulations per societal needs, the state must improve the quality of the infrastructure, including better road maintenance, adequate lighting, clear signage, encouraging and increasing access to public transportation, and carpooling.
California’s high number of car crashes can be attributed to other environmental factors, including road maintenance. Poor road maintenance can mean roads are unpaved, unrepaired, and unsafe.
The state of our roads can be attributed to a lack of funding, weather conditions, or other factors. Large potholes or debris-ridden roads can cause devastating wrecks.
In fact, a recent study by MoneyGeek—a personal finance website—used Federal Highway Administration data to try and determine which states have the best roads and which have the worst.
California ranked the worst in road “roughness” compared to the other 49 states. The study found 44% of California roads were in poor condition.
California Car Crash Attorney
At Peerali Law, we have a reputation for providing personalized representation that yields successful results for our clients. We routinely obtain six and seven-figure settlements or awards for injured accident victims.