People die every day in California car accidents. Knowing more about the state’s fatal traffic accidents might help you avoid becoming a wrongful death statistic. Fatal car crashes are increasing in California California is the most populated state in the nation but it does not lead the country in motor vehicle crash deaths. That dubious honor belongs to Texas, which had 3,382 traffic fatalities in 2013. California placed second with 3,000. The only other state with more than 2,000 crash deaths was Florida. Adjusting the statistics to account for population makes state-to-state comparisons more meaningful. California’s 2013 death rate from motor vehicle crashes per 100,000 residents was 7.8, compared to a nationwide rate of 10.3. But equalizing for population may not be the best way to make those comparisons. New York had only 6.1 crash deaths per 100,000 residents in 2013, but New York relies more heavily on public transportation than does California. A smaller percentage of drivers (or fewer miles driven per driver) skews traffic fatality statistics. A more meaningful comparison takes into account the number of deaths per miles driven. California’s Mileage Death Rate (MDR) fatalities per 100 million miles traveled was 0.94 in 2013, the same as New York’s. The national MDR was 1.11. Montana had the highest MDR (1.96) while the District of Columbia had the lowest (0.56). The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) was happy to report that California’s MDR was 0.88 in 2012. The OTS has not updated its scorecard during the last 18 months to reflect the sharp increase in California’s MDR between 2012 and 2013. The last scorecard shows an increase in traffic accident fatalities from 2,816 in 2011 to 2,857 in 2012, but OTS has been silent about the more substantial increase in 2013. The OTS’s assurance that California’s roads are safe is a small comfort to the 3,000 people who died in California traffic accidents in 2013. Breaking down the statistics will help drivers understand the wrongful deaths that occurred on California highways.
Of California’s 3,000 deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents in 2013, 1,621 victims were occupants of passenger vehicles. Car occupants accounted for 37% of California’s traffic accident fatalities. Occupants of SUVs and pickup trucks accounted for another 16% while motorcyclists made up 15% of the total. The remaining victims were pedestrians (23%), bicyclists (5%), and occupants of large trucks (1%). The statistics show that size matters. The larger the vehicle, the more likely its occupants are to survive a crash.
Seat belts, shoulder harnesses, and child safety seats save lives, but they do not assure that drivers and passengers will survive a crash. California has one of the highest rates of seat belt usage (97% as measured by daytime observations of front seat occupants). Of the 1,621 fatalities involving passenger vehicle occupants in 2013, 31% were unrestrained while 61% were buckled up. Whether the remaining 8% of fatal accident victims were using a restraint system is unknown.
According to the OTS, 802 drivers who died in California traffic accidents in 2012 had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit of 0.08%. That number increased to 854 in 2013. While it is not always the case that the driver who had been drinking caused the accident, it is fair to assume that alcohol consumption contributed to the large majority of those deaths. The OTS also states that 38 percent of all drivers who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in California in 2012 tested positive for legal and/or illegal drugs, a percentage that has been increasing every year since 2006? It is difficult to know what to make of that statistic. A number of substances fall under the umbrella of legal drugs that do not impair the ability to drive, while testing positive is not the same as being under the influence. In any event, if a drug (legal or illegal) may cause drowsiness or impair reaction times, it is better to avoid driving after taking the drug.
More than half of all nationwide fatalities produced by motor vehicle accidents occur in rural areas. Unsurprisingly, the percentage of rural accident deaths is higher in states that have few population centers (98% in Montana) and lower in heavily urbanized states (8% in Rhode Island). California has several large metropolitan areas but it also has a large rural areas. Still, 61% of California’s fatal traffic accidents in 2013 occurred in urban areas, compared to 39% in rural areas. That statistic shows only that it pays to be a safe, defensive driver when you travel on any of California’s roads and highways.
If your loved one has lost their life in a California wrongful death car accident you should speak with an attorney that you trust about the situation. You may be entitled to receive compensation for medical expenses that arose prior to your loved one’s death as well as pain and suffering. Those who would like to take advantage of a free consultation from an experienced attorney can call (800) 838-6644.