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Who is Most at Risk on California Roads?

By Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie on June 14, 2020

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Anyone who has driven a California road knows that accidents are a daily occurrence. Whether there is a delay on the I-5 or an intersection is blocked off by fire trucks, we often assume that there was a car accident. We try to tell ourselves that accidents happen to other people, that we are defensive drivers and know our streets better than everyone, but the reality is that an accident can happen to anyone. What is more troubling is that the risk of fatality varies depending on a number of factors, such as alcohol or drug impairment, distracted driving, and even age.

Fatality Risk for California Drivers

In the most recent year for which statistics are available, 3,655 fatalities occurred in traffic accidents and 14,230 serious injuries occurred, both of which are higher than the previous 5-year average, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). Among these fatalities, the OTS identified key demographics that are at notably higher risks of a fatal car accident, which include:

  • Alcohol or Drug-Impaired Drivers: Impaired drivers are the most likely to be involved in a car accident, with alcohol-impaired drivers making up 30% of fatalities and drug-impaired 42%.
  • Aging Drivers (Over 65): Several factors contribute to the deaths of older drivers in California, from slower reaction times to their overall frailty in an accident. When compared to their population size in California, they appear to be less likely to be involved in a fatal accident, but that percentage rises drastically as they get older.
  • Teen Drivers (20-years old or younger): Younger drivers are less experienced on California roads and heavily traffic highways, and they also have a higher risk of distracted driving. Even though they are under the legal limit, the OTS reports that the majority of deaths are also caused by alcohol impairment for teen drivers as young as 15-years old.
  • Motorcyclists: While statistics have shown a decrease in motorcycle fatalities, the numbers are still staggeringly high, and often involve a lack of training or a high BAC level.
  • Pedestrians and Cyclists: Pedestrians overall have seen a decrease in fatalities, but individuals over 65 and bicyclists have both seen an increase. This is largely due to the lack of protection they have when crossing the street or in bike lanes, but it can be mitigated through proper education and training.
  • Occupant Restraints: This category factors in any deaths related to individuals who do not use property safety features, such as seatbelts or child seats. The majority of these individuals are young than 20-years old.

The OTS Plan of Action

In addition to reporting annual statistics about fatal traffic collisions, the OTS is also dedicated to tracking how these numbers change. This includes analyzing statistics based on both a 5-year average and changes from year to year in order to determine if fatalities have increased or decreased over time. They also have implemented several measures, such as increased DUI checkpoints and motorcycle safety programs, based on this research. This is all a part of a long-term plan of action to make California roads safer for every resident, whether they drive a big rig or a bicycle.

Public Awareness

The OTS has also focused on developing and implementing educational campaigns, including “May is Motorcycle Awareness Month,” “Click It or Ticket,” “Go Safely, California,” “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” and other such campaigns. The organization has also enacted localized programs through Highway Patrol, schools, local police and fire departments, and other authorities to educate younger drivers. They have also increased their social media presence to target at-risk demographics more specifically.

Improved Data Collection

While the OTS reports are often extensive, they are making efforts to further improve the data they collect and become more aware of not only at-risk demographics, but how local traffic and road conditions contribute to fatalities. To do this, they are working towards creating a seamless system to share and collect data between California cities and neighborhoods. That way they can potentially differentiate the risks a Costa Mesa driver may experience versus and Anaheim driver.

Localized Response Programs

The OTS understands that fatal accidents can occur all across California, but they also understand that no city or county in our state is the same. That is why they provide resources, funding, and data across multiple locations to build better safety programs in each region. This allows local authorities to work more smoothly together across counties while also building unique strategies to help decrease fatalities rates in their individual communities.

When Tragedy Strikes

While many accidents are grateful to walk away with only a few bruises and scrapes, statistics show that many drivers do not even walk away from the accident. If you lost a loved one in a car accident due to someone else’s reckless behavior, be they over the BAC limit or speeding, then contact the Orange County wrongful death attorneys at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie by calling (949) 752-7474. We offer free consultations and can explain what compensation is available to you.

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