Americans love to throw around statistics so much that many people become suspicious of most reported facts, but when a trusted source releases objective data, people usually accept the information. Problems sometimes develop, however, when someone presents the facts to support a conclusion that — while true — may only tell part of the story. This can occasionally happen with California traffic fatality statistics.
Comparing Several Years Determines More Accurate Trends
When government agencies release state or local traffic accident statistics, the media usually reports on them. It is helpful if the most recent numbers are put in context with several previous reports to determine if things are improving or getting worse.
California State Traffic Statistics
In December 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its estimate of motor vehicle traffic fatalities for January through September 2022. The 3,178 fatalities in California for this period actually showed a decrease of 2.2% over the 3,250 fatalities for January through September of 2021. This sounds as if California made a slight but positive improvement in traffic safety.
However, the increase in all traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2021 compared to the January through September fatalities of 2020, was a whopping 17.2%. That means the California traffic fatality total for the first nine months of 2022 was still an increase of 12.5% over 2020, so the overall trend is a hefty surge in California traffic-related deaths.
Los Angeles Traffic Statistics
The statistics for our metro area of Los Angeles are even more alarming. According to a January 2023 report by the organization Streets Are for Everyone, an advocacy group for safer streets, traffic fatality numbers in Los Angeles hit 309 in 2022. This is the first time in the 20 years SAFE has kept records that more than 300 persons died in Los Angeles due to traffic-related accidents. These numbers reflect a 5% rise in deaths from 2021 and a shocking 28% more traffic fatalities than in 2020.
Breaking the figures down further shows that the largest hike in traffic casualties hit bicyclists, with a 24% increase over the previous year, and pedestrians, with a 19% uptick. Both of these groups showed even greater increases when compared to 2020 statistics.
Multiple Causes Play a Part in Fatality Increases
While most people acknowledge the toll of human pain and suffering that traffic-related injuries and deaths cause entire families and communities, pinpointing the reasons behind the grim statistics takes more work.
SAFE’s January report looked at the primary collision factors listed in traffic injury and fatality reports for 2021 from the Los Angeles Police Department. For over a third of the collisions, the LAPD listed speed as the main cause. Other top reasons included unsafe turns and alcohol or drug impairment.
The LAPD does not have a category for cell phone use or other distracted driving habits, but various surveys reveal many drivers — sometimes as high as 80% — use technology while operating a vehicle. Technology distractions can also apply to some pedestrians and bicyclists.
Disregard for Traffic Rules
Whether it’s running red lights, weaving between lanes, or ignoring other road rules, some drivers exhibit contempt for both authority and safety as LAPD primary collision factors show.
The early months of the pandemic resulted in roadways with little or no traffic, causing some motorists to increase speeds. These practices may still hang on.
Cities Need To Prioritize Responses
The overall California trend of higher traffic fatalities, especially among pedestrians and bicyclists, is evident. The urgency to do something is clear. Municipalities such as Los Angeles are focusing their efforts on several main areas.
Improve the Most Dangerous Streets
This was the main goal of Vision Zero, which Los Angeles launched in 2015 to eradicate traffic fatalities by 2025. While other components, such as safety education, are part of the project, the city has concentrated on revamping high-fatality streets to cut speeds and make them safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. This may include removing a lane of vehicle traffic and providing wide bicycle lanes, as well as adding more crosswalks, traffic signals, and flashing lights and signs to alert and slow down drivers.
The biggest hurdle for such efforts is the resources needed in money and city employees. Inflation and worker shortages keep both of these in short supply.
Undertake Speed Enforcement and Other Traffic Measures
Making people who drive, walk, or bike on city streets accountable for their actions has to accompany city efforts. This may include increased traffic enforcement on deadly roads, automated speed enforcement if approved by the state legislature, emphasis on shutting down street racing, and the use of deterrents such as speed cables to slow traffic.
Everyone Must Join in the Effort
At the Law Offices of Brent D. George, we believe all of us need to become involved in the endeavor to reverse increasing traffic fatalities and make streets safer for all residents. We offer caring assistance if you or other family members have suffered personal injuries or loss from a traffic-related collision. Contact our office today for a free consultation.