California Car Accident Death Statistics

More than 32,000 people die every year in car accidents. In 2013 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), California car crashes accounted for 3,000 of those deaths.

Southern California motorists are killed in car crashes every day. At Timothy J. Ryan & Associates, we see how families suffer when their loved ones die in a traffic accident.

Understanding more about fatal car accidents may help you avoid them. It is in that spirit that we present the following statistics.

Locations of fatal crashes

Southern California recorded more than its share of traffic collision deaths in 2013. The total number of car crash deaths in Southern California counties included:

  • Los Angeles 630
  • Orange 185
  • Riverside 225
  • San Bernardino 264
  • San Diego 201

Nationwide, 54% of car accident fatalities occur in rural areas. In California, however, most (61%) fatal crashes occur in urban areas. Only 39% take place in rural locations.

Time of fatal car crashes

The deadliest month for car crashes in California during 2013 was October. January had the fewest recorded fatal crashes.

Saturdays and Sundays produced the most fatal crashes in California. The fewest car crash deaths occurred on Wednesdays.

More fatal California crashes occurred between noon and midnight than between midnight and noon. The largest number of fatal crashes was recorded between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

The fewest number of fatal crashes was recorded between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

How Many people die in car accidents?

More than 32,000 people die in automobile accidents every year.  In 2013, there we 3,000 fatal accidents in the state of California.

Deaths per fatal accident

Most fatal car accidents produce only a single death. The 32,719 nationwide deaths in 2013 resulted from 30,057 motor vehicle crashes. That works out to 1.08 deaths per fatal crash.

The average number of deaths per fatal accident in California is the same as the national statistic. The state recorded 2,772 fatal crashes resulting in 3,000 deaths, or 1.08 deaths per fatal crash.

California car crash deaths compared to other states

There are more car accident deaths in California than any other state, simply because there are more people in California. Measured per capita or per vehicle mile traveled, California is far from the deadliest state for drivers.

For every 100,000 residents, California recorded 7.8 deaths from car crashes in 2013. That’s significantly better than the national average of 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people. The deadliest states were Montana (22.6), Mississippi (20.5), and North Dakota (20.5). The fewest deaths per 100,000 residents were recorded in the District of Columbia (3.1) and Massachusetts (4.9).

California also compares favorably to other states when deaths are measured by vehicle mile traveled. For every 100 million vehicle miles traveled, California recorded 0.94 car accident deaths, compared to a national average of 1.11.

The worst death rate was again recorded in Montana (1.96), while the District of Columbia recorded the fewest deaths per vehicle mile traveled (0.56).

Alcohol as a fatal crash factor

Drinking and driving do not mix. Nationwide DUI collision statistics show that, when blood test results were available, 72% of drivers who died in a 2013 car crash were over the legal limit.

In California, 78% of drivers with a known blood alcohol content who died in car crashes were over the legal limit.

The state with the highest percentage of known over-the-limit driver fatalities was West Virginia (95%). The state with the lowest percentage was Mississippi (42%).

Those statistics are skewed by the fact that blood tests are most often taken when the police suspect that the deceased driver had been drinking. Blood is less likely to be tested, and blood alcohol contents are less likely to be recorded, when the police have no evidence that the driver was impaired by alcohol.

In addition, some states routinely test the blood of deceased drivers while others do not.

For instance, West Virginia rarely records a deceased driver’s blood alcohol content unless the driver has been suspected of impaired driving. The differences in gathering and reporting blood alcohol concentrations when drivers are involved in fatal accidents makes it difficult to make valid state-by-state comparisons.

The Department of Transportation uses a statistical model that attempts to adjust for state-by-state differences in conducting blood tests.

That model suggests that 33% of all drivers who died in car crashes nationwide were over the limit in 2013. In California, that statistic is 35%.

The state with the highest percentage of over-the-limit driver deaths using that model was South Carolina (47%), while Minnesota and West Virginia had the lowest percentage (24%).

Other causes of fatal crashes

The four most common factors that contributed to fatal collisions in California during 2013 were:

  • Unsafe speed
  • Failing to yield right-of-way
  • Improper turning
  • Failure to obey traffic signs or signals

Alcohol consumption ranks fifth on that list.

Seatbelt use

Seatbelts and shoulder harnesses save lives, but they don’t save every life. In California, where 97% of drivers routinely fasten their seatbelts, almost a third of the car occupants who were killed in a 2013 crash were not wearing seatbelts.

The other two-thirds died despite having buckled up.

Car accident death trends

Deaths from car accidents have declined since peaking at more than 54,000 in 1972. Although there are more vehicles than ever on the road today, seat belts, air bags, and safety technologies have made car accidents more survivable.

In fact, fatalities per mile traveled have steadily declined since 1921, when there were 24 deaths for every hundred million vehicle miles traveled. In 2013, the number of fatalities had been reduced to just over one death per hundred million miles of travel.

In California, the number of people killed in car crashes has increased steadily since 2010. In the ten years before 2013, the highest number of California car crash deaths was recorded in 2005.

Wrongful death compensation

If you are so unfortunate as to lose a loved one in a car accident, a wrongful death attorney can help you pursue justice. Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has years of experience helping families recover compensation when spouses, children, parents, and other relatives die in car crashes.