Car Crash Statistics [2024]

Traffic fatalities decreased from 3,970 in December 2022 to 3,740 in the same month of 2023, according to a National Safety Council (NSC) report. However, motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death in the U.S. 

Although many of us get into cars every day without considering the risk, they can be a dangerous mode of transportation. In the wrong hands, a car can become a lethal weapon. But even if you’re a good driver, it takes just one moment of inattention to cause a tragedy on the road. 

That said, let’s go over the latest car crash statistics in California and nationwide. 

Estadísticas de accidentes de tráfico en California

In the first half of 2023, more than 2,000 people lost their lives on California roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This number was 12% lower compared to 2022, but that doesn’t change things for the victims and their loved ones.

Sadly, car crashes are common and often deadly in the Golden State. Here are some of the most shocking statistics released since 2020 and beyond.

  • 2,061 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first six months of 2023. Another 2,341 people lost their lives in car accidents during the same period of the previous year, per the NHTSA.
  • The number of traffic fatalities in California reached 4,285 in 2021. A staggering 35% were due to speeding. That’s significantly higher compared to the percentage of speeding-related fatalities nationwide (29%).
  • Between 2020 and 2021, speeding-related deaths in California rose 16.5%.
  • 336 people, including 179 pedestrians, lost their lives on L.A.’s streets in 2023. This was the highest number of traffic fatalities recorded in the city over the past 20 years, per the Los Angeles Times.
  • The city also witnessed an 8% increase in fatal crashes and a 23% increase in fatal hit-and-runs in 2023, resulting in 106 deaths.
  • In 2020, nearly 4,000 people were killed and another 203,888 were injured in car crashes, according to the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
  • The same year, a fatal or injury-causing crash took place every four minutes. As a result, one person died every two hours and 11 minutes, and one person sustained traffic-related injuries every two hours and a half, per the CHP.
California Highway Patrol Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), 2020
3,672Fatal crashes
3,982 People killed in crashes
143,476 Injury crashes
203,888Road participants injured in crashes 
1.42 people were injured in each injury-causing crash 

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), in 2021 (the most recent year for which data is available):

  • Traffic-related deaths increased by 7.6% between 2020 and 2021, from 3,980 to 4,285. 
  • 1.38 people were killed for every 100 million miles traveled by Californians in 2021.
  • Deaths of passengers who were not wearing their seatbelts increased 12.4% between 2020 and 2021, from 782 to 878. 
Traffic fatalities3,9804,285
Deaths of passengers who were not wearing seatbelts782878

According to the NHTSA, 22,459 people died and 57,281 were involved in fatal crashes in California between 2017 and 2022. 

But that’s not all. 

Based on 2023 data, the Golden State is home to seven of the cities with the worst drivers in America, including:

  • Riverside
  • Fresno
  • Sacramento
  • Bakersfield
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • San Diego

It’s also the second worst state for drivers in the nation, and four of its cities have the highest crash rates in the U.S. These include:

  • San Diego
  • Los Angeles
  • Sacramento
  • Riverside

In 2021, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that California had the highest number of fatal motor vehicle crashes in the country. 

However, that’s only because it’s one of the most populous states. When fatalities are adjusted by population, South Carolina has the most deaths per 100 million miles traveled (2.08), and Mississippi has the most deaths per 100,000 people (26.2).

It’s also worth mentioning that 70% of all traffic fatalities in California take place in urban areas. In most other states, the majority of fatal car crashes occur in rural areas. 

Most Common Causes of Car Crashes in California 

Speeding was the most common reason behind fatal crashes in 2021, according to the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at the University of California, Berkeley. 

  • 71.4% of fatal and serious injury (FSI) crashes were due to speeding
  • Another 15.4% were due to driving or cycling under the influence
  • 4.8% of all accidents resulting in serious injuries or death occurred due to improper turning 
  • Approximately 2.2% happened when the driver missed or ignored traffic signs and signals
  • 1.8% were due to failure to yield right-of-way
Most Common Causes of Car Crashes in California 

According to the same source, 36% of speeding-related crashes resulting in serious injuries took place on weekends. Over 17% occurred between 3 PM and 6 PM on most days, especially on Fridays. 

Image showing speeding-related crashes resulting in serious injuries, with over 17% occurring between 3 PM and 6 PM on most days.

California Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Statistics

Someone dies in an alcohol-related crash every 39 minutes, notes SafeTREC. Not surprisingly, around 45% of road accidents involving alcohol use occur on weekends, with the peak period being Saturday between 12 AM and 3 AM. 

As far as drug use goes, both illegal drugs and certain medications (including OTC medicines) can impair your ability to drive. In 2021, these substances contributed to half of all fatalities (where drivers were tested for drugs) on California roads. 

  • According to the IIHS, 1,760 of the drivers killed in fatal crashes on California roads in 2021 had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. 
  • Moreover, the number of alcohol-related fatal crashes in the Golden State went from 1,180 to 1,370 between 2020 and 2021, per the OTS. That’s a 16% increase in just one year. 
  • Nearly 53% of the drivers who were killed in car crashes in 2021 tested positive for drugs. That’s a 5.5% decrease compared to the previous year. 
  • In 2022, one-third of fatal car accidents in California involved the use of alcohol, resulting in 1,069 deaths. 
  • In 2023, police officers reported an average of 340 DUI-related arrests per day, or more than 125,000 over 12 months. 
  • 4 out of every 100,000 drivers involved in fatal crashes in California test positive for alcohol. 

Estadísticas de accidentes de motocicleta en California

According to the latest OTS data, the number of motorcycle fatalities rose by 3% between 2020 and 2021. 549 people lost their lives in motorcycle accidents in 2020, and another 565 in the following year, 

Deaths of motorcycle riders who were not wearing helmets increased by 9% from 2020 (34) to 2021 (37). 

Motorcycle crash fatalities549565
Riders who were not wearing helmets (deaths)3437

The latest SafeTREC report shows the following for 2021: 

  • 13% of the people who lost their lives in a crash that year in California were motorcyclists. This figure is close to the national average (14%). 
  • The number of alcohol-impaired motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes increased by nearly 19% between 2020 and 2021. 
  • However, the most common reason behind FSI crashes was speeding. This factor contributed to over 29% of all accidents.
  • The second most common reason was improper turning, which played a role in nearly 22% of FSI crashes.
  • Failure to yield right-of-way, DUIs, and unsafe lane changes were responsible for 31.6% of all crashes resulting in serious injuries or death. 
Estadísticas de accidentes de motocicleta en California
  • SafeTREC also found that, in 2021, 74% of fatal motorcycle crashes occurred in urban areas. 
  • Another 26% occurred on rural roads—that’s a 7.5% increase compared to 2020.
  • Over 40% of fatal crashes and 39.3% of serious injury crashes took place on weekends.
  • More than 20% of traffic fatalities occurred between 3 PM and 6 PM on any given day. 
  • Once again, Los Angeles topped the list of the deadliest cities for road users, registering 120 motorcycle fatalities and 821 crashes resulting in serious injuries. 

Estadísticas de seguridad de los adolescentes en California

Per the OTS, the number of teen drivers aged 15 to 20 who died in a crash increased by around 15% between 2020 and 2021, from 413 to 474.

However, these numbers are much higher if we take into account the teenagers who were passengers in a car, pedestrians, motorcyclists, bike riders, or ATV drivers. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 986 teenagers aged 15 to 20 were involved in fatal car crashes in 2022. That’s slightly lower compared to 2021 (1,091) but higher than in 2020 (917). 

Deaths of teen drivers in car crashes413474
Deaths of teenagers involved in car crashes9171,091986
Persons Involved in Fatal Crashes.

Teen driver safety should be a priority, given that this age group has the highest fatal accident rate. Young drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely to die in a car crash (per mile driven) than those aged 20 or older. 

Estadísticas sobre seguridad de peatones y ciclistas en California

Taking a walk or riding a bike isn’t necessarily safer than driving a car. You could lose your life or sustain serious injuries because of other road users.

  • According to the OTS, more than 1,100 pedestrians died in 2021. That’s 9.4% higher compared to the previous year.
  • The number of cyclists who died in car crashes went down 8% between 2020 and 2021, from 136 to 125. However, that’s still high at the state level.
Pedestrian fatalities in car crashes1,0131,108
Cyclist deaths in car crashes 136125

Per the latest SafeTREC data, 26% of all traffic fatalities in California involved pedestrians and 2.9% involved bicycle riders in 2021. 

  • Motor vehicle crashes are responsible for 20 pedestrian deaths per day. 
  • Over 51% of pedestrian deaths are due to illegal crossings and similar traffic violations. 
  • Another 16% occur due to failure to yield to a pedestrian
  • Cyclist deaths, on the other hand, are largely due to speeding. This factor contributes to 17.5% of all fatalities involving bike riders. 
  • The next most common cause is improper turning, which accounts for 17.1% of cyclist deaths. 
  • As far as location goes, 91% of fatal pedestrian crashes and 90% of fatal bicycle crashes occur in urban areas.  
  • More than one-third of traffic fatalities involving pedestrians take place on Fridays and Saturdays. 
  • Over 36% of traffic fatalities involving cyclists occur on Tuesdays and Fridays. 

Estadísticas nacionales de accidentes de tráfico

A recent NSC report shows that traffic fatalities decreased by 4% between 2022 and 2023, from 46,279 to 44,450.

Researchers also found that, in 2021, drivers and other road participants aged 25 to 44 had the highest fatal crash rate of all age groups. More than 16,00 people in this age group lost their lives. 

Type of crashNumber of deaths among all age groups 
Collision between motor vehicles20,200
Collision with a fixed object12,600
Collision with a bicycle1,400
Collision with a pedestrian 9,100
Collision with a railroad train111
Non-collisions 3,500

Now let’s see how California compares to the national average. 

  • Speeding-related crashes: In 2021, 29% of traffic fatalities nationwide were due to speeding, according to SafeTREC. In California, this factor contributed to 35% of motor vehicle deaths. 
  • DUI: In the same year, 31% of traffic fatalities in the U.S. involved car drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. In California, alcohol consumption was responsible for 32% of all deaths on the road. 
  • Drug-related fatalities: Drug use contributed to 52% of traffic fatalities in the U.S. and 50% of those in California. 
  • Distracted driving: This factor played a role in 8% of all motor vehicle deaths nationwide and 3% of those on California roads. 
  • Motorcycle fatalities: In 2021, 14% of fatal motor vehicle crashes across the U.S. and 13% of those in California involved motorcyclists
  • Bicycle fatalities: Only 2.2% of fatal road accidents nationwide involved cyclists. In California, cyclist deaths accounted for 2.9% of traffic fatalities. 
  • Pedestrian fatalities: Three years ago, 17% of traffic fatalities nationwide and 26% of those in the Golden State resulted in pedestrian deaths

Overall, California has a higher rate of fatalities on the road compared to the national average. Distracted driving appears to be less common than in other states, but it still contributed to 140 deaths in 2021 alone. 

It’s also worth mentioning that California was the second deadliest state for drivers in the first half of 2023, with 2,061 fatalities. The highest death rate was registered in Texas, where 2,089 people lost their lives in road accidents, per the NHTSA.

By comparison, the District of Columbia reported only 25 deaths in the first six months of 2023. Delaware, Maine, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and several other states had fewer than 50 fatal motor vehicle crashes. 

¿Cuáles son las causas de los accidentes de tráfico?

La mayoría de los accidentes de tráfico pueden clasificarse en tres categorías: el entorno de la carretera, el vehículo y los factores humanos.

Los factores del entorno de la carretera incluyen condiciones externas como el tiempo y los peligros medioambientales, las condiciones de la carretera y su diseño.

Los factores del vehículo son fallos mecánicos, como averías del equipamiento o del vehículo.

Los factores humanos incluyen comportamientos (como conducir a una velocidad insegura), así como distracciones, ira y otras emociones.

A continuación se indican algunas de las causas más comunes de los accidentes de tráfico.

causas más comunes de los accidentes de tráfico

Factores del entorno vial

  • Carreteras inseguras. Las condiciones inseguras de la carretera pueden deberse a muchas razones. Pueden deberse a la presencia de personas o animales en la carretera, al mal tiempo (nieve, hielo, niebla) o simplemente a la oscuridad. Los conductores no suelen tener control sobre estas condiciones, pero aún así deben hacer todo lo posible para conducir con seguridad.
  • Puntos ciegos. A veces, un obstáculo fuera del vehículo provoca un ángulo muerto que te impide ver con claridad mientras conduces. Puede tratarse de nieve, barro, agua sucia, basura o incluso restos como hojas caídas o ramas de árboles que pueden caer sobre tu vehículo mientras conduces. Si esto ocurre, deténgase tan pronto como pueda hacerlo con seguridad para eliminar la obstrucción.

Factores del vehículo

  • Fallo del equipo de seguridad. Los equipos de seguridad, como las luces, los frenos y los airbags, deben recibir un mantenimiento adecuado para que funcionen correctamente. Si alguna de estas piezas falla mientras conduces, podría contribuir a un accidente.
  • Avería del vehículo. Los vehículos pueden averiarse mientras conduces. Si esto ocurre en una zona de mucho tráfico, puede ser especialmente peligroso y aumentar el riesgo de accidente.
  • Puntos ciegos. Casi todos los vehículos tienen puntos ciegos. Depende de ti comprobar periódicamente tu ángulo muerto, especialmente antes de realizar maniobras que impliquen moverte hacia tu ángulo muerto (como cambiar de carril).

Factores humanos

  • Falta de experiencia al volante. La experiencia al volante se adquiere con la práctica a lo largo del tiempo, ya que los conductores aprenden de las distintas experiencias que tienen al volante. La falta de experiencia es un factor que puede contribuir a las colisiones, especialmente cuando se trata del mayor número de colisiones en las que se ven implicados jóvenes.
  • No reconocer el peligro. A veces hay un peligro o un riesgo, y un conductor simplemente no lo reconoce. Esto puede provocar fácilmente colisiones.
  • Colisiones por alcance. Las colisiones por alcance son algunas de las colisiones más comunes, causadas con frecuencia por conductores que se distraen ante señales de stop o semáforos, o en zonas con suficiente congestión de tráfico como para provocar ralentizaciones.
  • Falling asleep. Drowsy driving is extremely dangerous, and more common than you think. Hundreds of crashes each year occur because a driver nods off at the wheel.
  • Pérdida de control. La pérdida de control puede producirse por diversas razones, desde el mal tiempo hasta las distracciones o la conducción demasiado rápida. Las salidas de carril son una causa común de accidentes de tráfico, y pueden ocurrir fácilmente cuando un conductor pierde el control de su vehículo.

Cómo evitar los accidentes de tráfico

No siempre es posible evitar los accidentes de tráfico; de hecho, una persona media se ve implicada en 3-4 accidentes de tráfico a lo largo de su vida. Sin embargo, puedes tomar medidas para mantener tu seguridad y la de los demás en la carretera.

Planificar con antelación

Acostúmbrate a comprobar el tiempo y el estado de la carretera antes de conducir, para saber si hay algún peligro al que debas prestar atención. Planifica tu salida con tiempo suficiente para llegar a tu destino sin exceso de velocidad. Y planea conducir en las mejores horas del día, cuando haya buena luz y visibilidad, pero no demasiado tráfico.

Éstas son sólo algunas de las formas en que la planificación anticipada puede convertirle en un conductor más seguro y ayudarle a evitar accidentes.

Escanee su entorno

Los conductores deben examinar constantemente su entorno en busca de posibles peligros, y no sólo la carretera. Mientras conduce, debe mover constantemente los ojos de la carretera que tiene delante a los lados del coche, al espejo retrovisor y viceversa. Esto le permitirá ver cualquier peligro, venga de donde venga.

Regule sus emociones

Ser emocional no te convierte en mejor conductor. De hecho, estar enfadado o triste al volante puede distraerte, hacerte menos consciente del riesgo y disminuir tus inhibiciones. Si sientes alguna emoción fuerte, intenta retrasar la conducción hasta que te sientas mejor.

Lo mismo ocurre cuando ya estás al volante. Intenta que las acciones de otros conductores no afecten a tus emociones, ya que esto puede provocar rabia al volante y accidentes.

Evite las distracciones al volante

Conducir distraído es un gran peligro, tanto para usted como para los demás conductores de la carretera. Las distracciones pueden incluir cualquier cosa que distraiga tus ojos de la carretera y de las zonas que te rodean, tus manos del volante o tu mente de la tarea que tienes entre manos: conducir. Evita las distracciones mientras estás al volante poniendo el teléfono en "no molestar", eligiendo la música y configurando el GPS antes de salir, y céntrate en conducir con seguridad.

Aprenda técnicas de conducción defensiva

Todos los consejos anteriores son técnicas utilizadas habitualmente en la conducción defensiva. Puedes aprender estas y otras técnicas de conducción defensiva haciendo un curso.

En California, el Programa de Mejora para Conductores Maduros está disponible en línea en un formato rápido, cómodo y asequible. Este curso está destinado a ayudar a los conductores maduros refrescar sus conocimientos del Código de Vehículos de California y las habilidades comunes de conducción. Los conductores mayores de 65 años reciben un descuento automático en sus tarifas de seguros de automóviles para completar el curso - los conductores más jóvenes pueden ser elegibles para descuentos a discreción de su compañía de seguros.

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