June 9, 2022 | Tips & Information

California Car Accident Statistics

California Car Accident Statistics

Traffic accidents are the number one cause of unintentional deaths for California residents. If you are injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, reach out to a Chain | Cohn | Clark Bakersfield car accident lawyer for legal assistance. 

We can help you recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries and/or property damage. However, although we are a car accident law firm, we do not want to see you hurt or killed in an auto accident. 

The best way to avoid the physical, financial, and emotional challenges of a car crash is to prevent one from happening in the first place. We have gathered some statistics in this article to provide a better picture of car accidents in California and how you can take steps to avoid a collision. 

How Many Accidents Happen a Day in California?

Based on yearly traffic statistics from 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 3,606 people died from car accidents in California in the course of 3,316 fatal motor vehicle crashes. 

The only state with more deaths in 2019 was Texas, with 3,615 deaths from 3,294 fatal crashes. 

The four most recent years of data show that fatal car accidents in California led to 3,606 deaths in 2019; 3,798 deaths in 2018; 3,884 deaths in 2017; and 3,837 deaths in 2016.

To get a rough estimate of how many individuals die each day, we will first average out these four years.

3,606+3,798+3,884+3,8374=3,781.25 deaths per year

Then we will divide the average number of deaths per year by 365.25 (the number of days in one calendar year). 

3,781.25365.25=10.35 deaths per day (nearest tenth)

California has the largest population of any state—over 39.5 million people—but 10 people a day dying in fatal car crashes can add up pretty quickly. Not to mention these are only the numbers for fatal crashes. 

According to the 2019 California Annual Reports from the California Office of Traffic Safety, the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) recorded 272,160 total motor vehicle injuries in 2018. SWITRS is a database that helps collect and process data from a car accident scene. Which means any accidents that were not input/reported were not included in this total number. 

Where Do Most Crashes Happen in California?

Although crashes can happen anywhere, car accidents are more likely to happen in places with lots of other drivers. Big cities and other more urban areas see a much higher percentage of crashes than rural areas. However, the comparison must be made between fatal and nonfatal accidents. 

While more collisions happen in populated areas, vehicles are often moving slower due to dense traffic. Fatal crashes that involve fast speeds and severe injuries often happen in less populated areas—where drivers think they are more likely to be able to get away with careless driving. 

Busy highways are also a hot spot for crashes because they harbor a lot of people driving at high speeds. 

When Do Most California Car Crashes Happen?

Similar to location, car accidents are more likely to happen at times when there are a lot of drivers on the road. Afternoon rush hour traffic (4-7 p.m.) sees the most collisions. Many of these are small, bumper-to-bumper encounters which do not claim lives. 

According to NHTSA California car accident statistics from 2019, the day of the week with the most fatal accidents was Saturday, and the most dangerous time to drive was in the evening between 6 p.m. and midnight. It’s suspected that there are so many fatalities at these times because drivers may be drinking or driving quickly. Without much other traffic on the road, drivers may speed even though they have reduced visibility in the dark. 

Leading Causes of Traffic Fatalities in California

As far as we know from the reported statistics, there are four main factors that stand out as car accident causes in California: speeding, careless driving, distracted driving, and driving while impaired. 

Speeding on California Roadways

Speeding is not only one of the leading causes of California car accidents, it is also the most likely factor to lead to severe injuries. It is more difficult to control a vehicle at higher speeds. The increased velocity also increases the impact force, which poses a greater threat to other drivers. 

Not only does speeding increase your chances of getting a ticket, it increases the risk of death for anybody involved in a potential accident. 

Careless Driving

Careless driving is an unnecessary factor that leads to unnecessary accidents. This is a failure to follow basic traffic laws, like staying in the proper lane, obeying traffic signals, and yielding the right-of-way.

You must remember that all drivers are only safe if everybody is operating by the same rules. Therefore, if one individual starts ignoring traffic laws, they put everyone around them in danger. Even if you follow all the rules while driving, stay clear of other drivers who may be negligent or careless. 

Driving While Distracted

It seems like a no-brainer that you need to look at the road while you are driving, yet a growing number of individuals are getting into distracted driving accidents each year. Multitasking behind the wheel can result in the inability to respond to changing road conditions. Using technology, eating, grooming, and talking with a passenger are all potential distractions that can increase the risk of a car accident. 

Regulations will never be able to prevent 100% of driving distractions, which means a lot of the burden falls on you as the driver to keep your focus on the road. 

Driving Impaired

Driving with impaired senses endangers you, anyone in your vehicle, and anyone else on or near the road. NHTSA California alcohol-impaired driving statistics from 2019 show that out of 3,316 crashes, 851 of them involved an alcohol-impaired driver–that’s 26%. 

No matter how good you believe you are at driving, you cannot predict the actions of an impaired driver

Although drunk driving is the most commonly discussed form of impaired driving, it is not the only type. Impairment can be caused by a variety of prescription or non-prescription drugs, alcohol, and even extreme fatigue or exhaustion. All of these factors can inhibit your reaction time and limit your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

If you are a drunk driving victim, or a victim of any other type of negligent driver, reach out to our Bakersfield car accident law firm for legal assistance. 

What Is California Doing to Reduce Accidents?

With more than 39.5 million residents, it’s very difficult for the state of California to mitigate 100% of the risk. However, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) has outlined these 11 areas of concentration they will be dedicating resources towards in order to decrease car accident fatalities.

  • Aging road users: California has over 4.5 million drivers over the age of 65—more than any other state. While older adults have lower crash rates, fatal crashes begin to spike again at 70-74 and continue to increase. Age-related driving impairments develop slowly and are rarely taken seriously until it’s too late. 
  • Alcohol-impaired driving: Impaired driving is the leading cause of death among drivers ages 15-24. Alcohol-impaired driving programs are intended to prevent high-risk youth from engaging in certain dangerous activities that could lead to accidents through community engagement, education, and risk enforcement. 
  • Distracted driving: Proportionally, drivers age 20-39 have the highest rate of distraction-related fatal crashes. California already has some of the strictest laws on distracted driving countermeasures and plans to increase programs that will punish drivers who use electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle.
  • Drug-impaired driving:Driving while on certain drugs is both illegal and dangerous. This does not only include illegal drugs, but also some over-the-counter drugs which can have a serious impact on your ability to drive and should not be taken concurrently. 
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS): California OTS is continuing to fund the EMS system in the hopes that they can provide quick and reliable emergency services to the victims of California car crashes.
  • Motorcycle safety: Motorcycles abide by a different set of rules and are sometimes forgotten by other drivers. In California, motorcyclists are allowed to split lanes, which can lead to traffic collisions if not done properly. These programs will help to educate drivers of all vehicle types on how they can be aware of motorcycle drivers.
  • Occupant protection: Seatbelts and occupant protection have been a priority for vehicle manufacturers since the dawn of time. Unfortunately, there’s only so much a manufacturer can do to ensure that the driver (or passenger) is actually using the safety tools put in place. These programs will continue to educate drivers on the dangers of not buckling their seat belts or sitting improperly in a motor vehicle. 
  • Pedestrian and bicycle safety: This program will aim to reduce crash-related fatalities for those on foot or bicycle. Especially in urban areas, dense populations can be overwhelming and lead to confusion or roadside injuries. 
  • Police traffic services: Funding for police traffic services will help with enforcement of other expectations like seatbelt laws, distracted driving, etc. 
  • PR, advertising, and marketing: OTS is funding their marketing efforts to increase their communication of these rules and programs across the state. 
  • Traffic records/roadway safety: By automating traffic collision databases, OTS will be able to more accurately allocate resources to problem areas.

All of these efforts are currently in progress and will continue to develop over time. 

Chain | Cohn | Clark: Contact a Reliable Car Accident Law Firm

Chain | Cohn | Clark is a Bakersfield law firm serving victims of car accidents and personal injury in both Kern County and the greater California area around Bakersfield. We have decades of experience in pursuing compensation for residents just like you.

Our top priority is your safety, so please take the necessary steps to avoid a vehicle accident. If you enact all of these safeguards and are still injured in a collision as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact our firm and we will fight for the compensation you deserve.