Every year, 32,000 people die needless deaths in car accidents.
Californians account for a far too large proportion of those deaths. In 2013, 3,104 of those were the result of a California car accident.
In 2016, that number grew to 3,680. Plus, it was a 13% increase from the number in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of traffic fatalities nationwide grew only 6%.
It's hard to believe those figures are our reality. But the harder truth to swallow is that too many of these accidents are preventable. They happen in the same places, at the same time, and for too often the same reasons.
Understanding how car accidents happen may help us all avoid them.
So, here's what you need to know about California car accidents:
Deadliest Counties in California
Nationally, 54% of car accident fatalities happen in rural parts of the country.
California bucks that trend. In fact, on 39% of fatal accidents happen in rural California. Most (61%) happen in or around the city.
Here's a breakdown of the deadliest counties in 2013:
- Los Angeles (630)
- San Bernardino (264)
- Riverside (225)
- San Diego (201)
- Orange (185)
Los Angeles County is the clear leader in fatal car accidents in the state, with 630 deaths in this county alone in 2013.
LA County sees more than 2 times the number of fatalities than any other part of Southern California. This is in spite of the fact that there is access to life-saving emergency response teams. The next closest county, San Bernardino, saw only 264 deaths.
And the problem is getting worse — particularly in greater Los Angeles.
In 2016, 260 people died in traffic incidents on the streets of LA. That was an increase of 43% compared to 2015.
They've grown again in 2017. By April 2017, traffic deaths were up 22% in LA compared to the same period in 2016.
Most Common Causes of Car Accidents
California has another alarming trend related to the cause of car accidents.
If you're reading about a California car accident, then you'll likely find that was caused by impaired driving. Whether the impairment comes from drugs or alcohol, impaired driving is one of the most common causes of traffic accidents in California.
In 2013, 28% of fatalities resulting from a California car accident were due to impaired driving. While the national average of this statistic is 31%, the figure is still far too high.
However, this statistic does require some parsing. In 32% of drivers involved in a fatal crash tested positive for some type of drug. Illicit drugs were at the heart of some cases. But in other accidents, the drugs found in the drivers' system were legal.
Driving under the influence is a growing problem in California. A spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety, Chris Chochran, noted that prescription drugs are involved in more and more accidents.
However, inebriated drivers are not the only cause of accidents.
Distracted drivers are also a problem.
It's illegal to text and drive in the state of California. But if you have a hands-free device or voice-activated Bluetooth controls in your car, then you can still use your phone.
While hands-free conversations are still problematic for driving because they're distracting, truth is that people don't respond to legislation like they should.
Despite texting being against the law, a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that 40% of respondents had checked their email or texts while they were driving in the 30 days prior to responding to the survey.
Speeding is another common cause of car accidents. When you speed, you're more likely to get into an accident because you're less likely to be able to respond to a potential accident cause in time.
If you're going 40 mph down a 20 mph suburban street, you're less likely to be able to stop when someone unexpectedly gets out of their car or a child runs into the street. The result is a head-on collision — and not necessarily with another car.
Finally, reckless driving also causes accidents in California. Changing lanes without signally, ignoring stop lights or stop signs, and turning in the wrong place all make a driver dangerous to themselves but to everyone else on the road.
Pedestrians Are Most Likely to Die in a California Car Accident
One of the most harrowing statistics available on California car accidents isn't related to drivers at all.
Nearly half of fatalities in traffic accidents in Los Angeles aren't in a car. They're on the pavement.
Even though pedestrians are only involved in 14% of car accidents in LA, they make up half the fatalities.
There may be a few reasons for this. First, there are more drivers today than before because the economy is healthy, more people are working, and gas is affordable.
Drivers are also more distracted at a time when more people are choosing to cycle or walk to their destination.
However, there may also be more people whose speed is going unchecked. LAPD has issued far fewer speeding tickets compared to previous years. This may be because more officers are focusing on rising crime rather than speeding.
Speeding is a huge issue for pedestrians. If a pedestrian is struck by a car traveling at 20 mph, their chance of survival is 90%. If the car is traveling at 40 mph, their likelihood of survival drops to only 20%.
How to Stay Safe on California Roads
The statistics we've shared here are shocking and sad. But the most upsetting things about these statistics is that so many traffic deaths can be prevented with sensible driving.
Most accidents in California occur in urban areas. So, keep yourself safe by being extra cautious on the road.
Follow the speed limit even if traffic is clear, regardless of whether you're likely to get a ticket or not. And remain extra vigilant towards your speed on neighborhood or downtown streets.
If you're going out for a drink, factor the cost of a taxi into the cost of a night out. If you're going to get high, do the same thing. The cost of a taxi will never be more than someone's life.
Finally, hang up the phone. There's nothing so urgent that it can't wait 5 minutes for you to pull over and park. And if it's not worth pulling over for, then it's not worth checking on the road.
If you or someone you love has been involved in a California car accident, you may be able to seek compensation for injuries or a wrongful death.
To learn more contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer.