As the most populous state in the nation, California attracts tourists and new residents alike who are eager to explore the many attractions the Golden State has to offer. While that’s great for the state’s economy, it takes a toll on the roads, which are densely populated and contribute to a high number of motor vehicle accidents each year.
While looking through recent statistics on California motor vehicle accidents can make it seem like crashes are unavoidable, these numbers can actually be quite useful, as they better inform drivers of when, where, and why these accidents happen. Equipped with basic safety knowledge as well as these statistics, both California residents and drivers can feel better prepared when they get behind the wheel.
Some key facts and statistics on California motor vehicle crashes include:
In 2017, California had the second-highest number of fatal crashes in the United States: 3,304. Only Texas ranked higher. Part of the reason for this is California’s population, which is considerably denser than, say Nebraska, which recorded only 210 fatal crashes in 2017.
Night-times and weekends are the most dangerous times for motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
According to the most recent numbers from the California Office of Traffic Safety, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities — where a driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher — increased from 911 in 2015 to 1,059 in 2016. Also in 2016, 1.5 percent of all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes tested positive for legal and/or illegal drugs.
Bakersfield, California, in particular, has seen a rise in drunk-driving-related accident in recent years.
The California OTC also found that motorcycle fatalities increased 11 percent from 494 in 2015 to 548 in 2016. Deaths of motorcyclists not wearing a helmet increased 9 percent, from 23 in 2015 to 25 in 2016. California is one of 19 states that requires motorcyclists by law to wear a helmet.
According to the California DMV, 80 percent of collisions and 65 percent of near-collisions are the result of distracted driving. The main reasons for driving distracted, which involves taking your eyes or mind off the road, include eating, applying cosmetics, watching events outside the vehicle, reaching for an object inside the vehicle, and, of course, using electronic devices such as mobile phones. California outlawed the use of handheld electronic devices while driving in 2017, but crashes related to them nonetheless persist.
If you live in or are planning to visit California, these statistics can seem intimidating. Properly educating yourself is a huge step towards becoming comfortable on the state’s overcrowded and often chaotic roads. The California DMV’s “California Driver Handbook” is a wealth of information when it comes to understanding the laws and getting familiar with best practices for driving in the state. We encourage our community to read through those pages and become familiar with not only the laws and regulations on the road, but also what you can do once inside your vehicle to ensure a safer trip for you and your loved ones.