Every day, car accidents claim the lives of Californians. Car accidents often result from drunk driving, negligent drivers, and faulty vehicles, among others. California has a large population, and this explains the high number of car accidents and car accident fatalities that the state records every year. In the United States, the odds of dying in a car accident is 1 in 106. Even if the U.S continues to record a high number of car accidents and fatalities, there is a notable decrease in the trend. Deaths occurring from car accidents have significantly reduced compared to vehicle accident fatalities in the 1970s and 1980s. In California, car accident fatalities decreased from 8.3% between 2017 and 2018. In 2017, California recorded 3,884 vehicle accident fatalities while in 2018, it recorded 3,563 deaths. However, in 2019, the state recorded slightly higher vehicle accident fatalities.  If you lose your loved one in a car accident, Orange County Personal Injury Attorney can help you file a wrongful death claim. 

Recent Car Accident Fatality Statistics

In 2019, California recorded 3,540 deaths, which was a slight increase from the deaths reported in 2019.  The majority of vehicle accident deaths involve passenger vehicles. For instance, when a passenger vehicle collides with a bigger car, the occupants of the passenger vehicle suffer the worst injuries. Therefore, passenger vehicles’ occupants are more likely to succumb to their injuries in case of an accident. Across the United States, deaths from motor vehicle accidents remain a persistent problem.

States across the U.S. have been engaging in intense campaigns aimed at curbing the regular occurrences of car accidents. In California, for instance, the state has strict laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI). DUI is among the leading causes of car accidents in the state. The police often set up DUI checkpoints to discourage drivers from operating their vehicles while intoxicated.  There is a tremendous improvement in in-vehicle features and standards. Some states in the U.S have developed laws on mandatory wearing of safety belts. 

Driving under the influence is particularly common among young people. It’s incredibly common for high school students to drive while intoxicated.

Car accident deaths claimed 48 lives per 100,000 people in 2018. Although this average was lower than the national average of 65 deaths per 100,000 people, it’s still a significant portion. Motor vehicle accidents are among the leading causes of unintentional deaths in California. Fatal car accidents mainly occur due to intoxicated driving, speeding, and intoxication. Vehicle accidents are preventable. Every driver has a responsibility to exercise due care and caution to prevent vehicle accidents.

Statistics on the Leading Causes of Fatal Car Accidents

In 2017, California recorded 1,147 deaths resulting from alcohol-impaired driving. In 2018, California recorded 1069 deaths resulting from impaired driving. This was a decrease of 6.8%. Alcohol-impaired fatalities involve drivers whose blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit of 0.08%. When a driver is under the influence, he or she can’t respond promptly in case of an accident. An intoxicated driver has less concentration and may not be able to identify potential hazards while driving.

In 2018, 42% of all the drivers who died in vehicle accidents in California had drugs in their system, either legal or illegal drugs. Some of the common controlled substances that impair driving are marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Prescription drugs could also lead to impairment despite being legal. Some medicines make a driver tired, making a driver fall asleep while behind the wheel. 

California recorded an increase in teen motor vehicle fatalities by 21.4% from 2017 to 2018. In 2017, the state recorded 168 teen motor vehicle fatalities while in 2018, it recorded 168 teen motor vehicle fatalities. Teen drivers are usually between the ages of 16 to 19 years. This shows that underage driving is a significant problem in California. California has zero-tolerance laws for underage drivers. Drivers under 21 years should not drive with any alcohol content in their blood. Teens below 21 years should not carry alcohol in their vehicles. In 2017, 106 teen drivers died in vehicle accidents while in 2018, 90 teen drivers were killed in vehicle accidents. This was an improvement of 15% of the teen driver deaths in 2017

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 36,750 motor vehicle accident deaths occurred in 2018. This was slightly lower than the number of fatalities recorded in 2017. However, there is still so much work to be done to reduce the car accident fatalities in California. The state has a toll order or ensuring that the roadways are safe for all users.

OTS collision rankings provide ample data that allows cities to compare their car accident fatalities with other cities with a similar population. These statistics help different cities in California to make relevant comparisons and identify areas that need improvement. The rankings serve as indicators of potential issues that cause vehicle accidents in California.

Most fatal car accidents in California occur at night and on weekends. At night, theirs is low visibility. Therefore, a vehicle driver is more likely to strike an object or collide with other vehicles. Fatal accidents are also common during the weekends because most people consume alcohol on weekends. On weekends, motorists flock the streets, which increases the likelihood of an accident due to high traffic.  In 2016, 6.3% of all vehicle crashes occurred at night, and only 4.8% of the crashes occurred during daytime hours. Around 5.3% of vehicle crashes occur during weekdays. However, this number jumps to 5.9% on weekends.

Most people assume that car accidents mainly occur in the cities. However, this is not always the case. You would be surprised to know that vehicle accidents are common in the countryside just like in the cities. When car accidents happen in rural areas, they are likely to be fatal, just like the accidents that occur in the cities. Most people drive at higher speeds in rural areas. Therefore, most car accidents in rural areas involve head-on collisions with other vehicles and collisions with non-moving objects.

There is no doubt that vehicle accidents are common in California. Most car accident fatalities in California are preventable if people would give roads the attention they deserve. The majority of fatal road accidents revolve around negligence.  If your loved one succumbs to injuries suffered in a negligent car accident, you should not fail to seek compensation. 

Alcohol-Impaired Driving and Car Accident Fatalities

In the past three decades, alcohol-impaired driving has dramatically reduced in California. However, alcohol-impaired driving still contributes to a significant percentage of car accident fatalities in California. Statistics reveal that in 2016, 1 person died in an alcohol-impaired car accident every fifty minutes in the U.S. Between 2015 and 2016, the United States recorded a significant increase in car accident fatalities, 10497 people died nationwide due to impaired driving in 2016. This number was a 1.7% increase from the 10,320 people who died in alcohol-impaired driving in 2015.

In California, 1059 people died due to alcohol-impaired driving in 2016. In 2015, 911 people died due to alcohol-impaired driving, and in 2012, 829 people died due to impaired driving in California. Therefore, 2016 recorded a 27.7% increase in alcohol-impaired deaths from 2012 and a 16.2% increase in alcohol-impaired deaths from 2015.

Of the motor accident fatalities in California in 2016, 29.2% of the accidents involved drivers with a BAC of more than 0.08%. This percentage was slightly higher than the national average of 28% alcohol-impaired fatalities.

The highest number of fatal accidents and deaths resulting from impaired driving mainly occur in central and southern California. Los Angeles County records the highest number of alcohol-impaired deaths. The northern and the rural parts of California record the highest alcohol-involved severe and fatal injuries. This is because the north and the rural parts of California have high populations. Also, most drivers tend to speed when they are in rural areas. 

In 2017, a study was conducted, and California residents talked about their major traffic concerns.  The Office of Traffic Safety conducted the study. The participants in the survey cited drunk driving as the second-biggest traffic safety concern. There was a spike in drunk driving as a safety concern from 5.6% in 2016 to 22.9% in 2017.

Compared to the national average, drunk driving is a lesser problem in California. In 2016, 23.7% of all the drivers involved in fatal crashes in California had high BAC results. However, this was lower than the 40.5% of alcohol-impaired fatalities recorded in 2017. The alcohol impairment testing rates were higher among the drivers who lost their lives than in drivers who survived. 

Statistics reveal that most alcohol-impaired fatal accidents in California involved collisions due to impairment (80.1%). Alcohol-impaired accidents also revolved around improper turning (6.2%0 and unsafe speed (6.2%). The majority of impaired drivers also get into hit objects or alcohol-impaired collisions (44.5%). Rear-end collisions are also common among alcohol-impaired drivers (13.5%). Fatal car accidents involving drunk driving also occur due to broadside accidents (12.1%), head-on collisions (11.2%), and vehicle overturning (11.7%). 

The rate of alcohol-impaired fatalities is much higher and more severe at night and mainly during weekends. Almost half of all fatal alcohol-impaired car accidents occur between 9 p.m. and 3 p.m. Fatal injuries involving impaired drivers are the least between 6 a.m. and noon. Most people who get involved in alcohol-impaired vehicle accidents are young males. Young males between the ages of 15 and 34 make 39.4% of all victims of fatal vehicle accidents resulting from drink driving.

More than half of all vehicle accidents that occur due to impairment happens in the urban areas (53.3%), while around 46.1% of the accidents occur in urban areas. The majority of alcohol-impaired accidents occur on high capacity roads in urban areas. The majority of fatalities due to alcohol-impaired accidents involve passenger vehicles.

Strategies for Reducing Impaired Driving Fatalities

California has adopted several strategies to help solve impaired driving, which is a persistent problem in the state. Different methods for curbing drunk driving often require additional resources. Some of the strategies that the state has adopted are:

  • Strict Drunk Driving Laws- In California, it’s illegal for a driver to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or more. According to the zero-tolerance laws, drivers below 21 years should not operate a vehicle with any alcohol content in the blood. Commercial vehicle drivers should not drive with a BAC of 0.04% or more.
  • DUI Checkpoints- at DUI checkpoints, police stop vehicles and check to see if a driver is impaired. The police follow specific criteria while stopping drivers. The law requires the police to set DUI checkpoints in highly visible areas and to inform drivers of the upcoming DUI checks. For this reason, most intoxicated drivers avoid DUI checkpoints.
  • Ignition Interlock Devices – ignition interlock devices are devices installed in a vehicle and help to measure the presence of alcohol in a driver’s breath. Before starting his or her car, a driver blows into the ignition interlock device. Ignition interlock devices are mainly for people convicted of drunk driving. After the suspension of a driver’s license due to DUI, the California DMV may request the driver to install an ignition interlock device before reinstatement of his or her driver’s license.

Other strategies that the state of California has been adopting to help curb drunk driving are:

  • Mass media campaigns
  • Administrative license suspension and revocation laws
  • Multi-component interventions
  • Brief interventions and alcohol screening
  • Instructional training in schools

The problem of the alcohol-impaired driver is prevalent among the youth. Statistics released in 2018 revealed that drivers between 21 and 24 years had the highest percentage of intoxicated drivers in fatal accidents. In 2018, the number of drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents was 3.4 times more at night than during the day.

Children Fatalities in Car Accidents

In 2018, 1038 children died in fatal car accidents across the United States. The children were 14 years and younger. Of these fatalities, 231 of the children succumbed to injuries suffered in alcohol-impaired car accidents. Of the 231 deaths, 55% (128 children) were occupants of vehicles whose drivers had a BAC of above 0.08%. 31% of them (71 children) were occupants of other cars that collided with cars being operated by drunk drivers. 13% (31 children) were non-occupants and were mainly pedal cyclists or pedestrians. One of the children who died in the alcohol-impaired car accident in 2018 was the vehicle driver. 

Speeding and Car Accidents Fatalities

The NHTSA points out that speeding is a leading cause of fatal car accidents in the U.S. and particularly in California. In 2018, 9,378 people died in the U.S. in fatal car accidents due to speeding. Every day, people face the frustrations of modern life as they keep juggling busy schedules. Different states in the U.S. have put in place speed limit laws to help curb speeding.

For more than two decades, speeding has contributed to more than 1/3 of all fatal car accidents in the United States. In 2017, 26% of all road fatalities resulted from speeding. When a driver is moving at high speeds, he or she may lose control of the vehicle, especially in unsafe road conditions. It’s common for drivers to lose control of their vehicles in bad weather, at night when visibility is low, and in areas undergoing road constructions. Speeding not only endangers the driver’s life but the lives of all people around him or her. Some of the potential risks of speeding are:

  • Speeding increase the potential for losing control of the vehicle
  • It reduces the effectiveness of occupant protection equipment like airbags and safety belts
  • In case of a danger or an emergency, the driver requires a longer stopping distance
  • A speed-related crash has higher economic implications
  • A higher impact in case of a collision

A Drop in Motor Vehicle Accidents Deaths in 2019

From 2017, there has been a reduction in car accident fatalities in the U.S. This could be due to the massive campaign conducted by the NHTSA and the strict traffic rules imposed by different states. Below is a breakdown of the car accident fatalities from 2017 to 2019:

  • 2017 - 40,231 people lost their lives in fatal car accidents
  • 2018 - The number of car accident fatalities declined by 4% from 2017 to 39,404 deaths in 2018
  • 2019 - The number of car accident deaths reduced by 2% from 2018 to 38,800 in 2019.

The reduction of the car accident fatalities could serve as a sign that the country is reaping the benefits of several risk mitigation measures it has put in place to curb car accidents. Also, newly manufactured vehicles have superior safety features and advanced driver assistance systems. For instance, modern vehicles are complete with a lane-departure warning system, emergency braking, adaptive headlights, and back up cameras. These features help reduce the risk of crashes and help minimize the severity of crashes when they occur.

Even if there is a decrease in car accident fatalities in the United States, 38,800 deaths recorded in 2019 are still highly unacceptable.  Therefore, many organizations across the U.S continue to take additional actions to reduce vehicle accident fatalities in California. Some of the measures that these organizations are adopting include:

  • Encouraging defensive driving
  • Identifying the potential dangers of impaired driving
  • Staying alert and engaging in teens’ driving habits
  • Understanding the vehicle safety systems and how to use them

Injuries that Often Cause Death in Car Accidents

A car accident can cause fatal injuries in any part of the body. Some of the injuries that lead to fatalities in car accidents are:

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries contribute to around 30% of all car accident deaths in the United States. Every day, about 138 people lose their lives due to traumatic brain injuries in car accidents. This is according to the statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  In most cases, TBI results from the application of a blunt force on the head. This makes the brain bump within the skull leading to fatal brain injuries. When a vehicle collides with another, passengers often bump their heads on the sides of the car. This trauma could lead to irreversible head and brain injuries. Most people who suffer severe traumatic brain injuries die at the scene of the accident before they even make it to the hospital.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The impact of a car accident on the spine often leads to severe spinal cord injuries that often lead to death. Especially in a high-speed car accident, occupants may suffer broken bones, including a broken spinal cord. Passengers who were not wearing safety belts at the time of the accident are more likely to suffer severe back injuries.

Excessive Burns

Depending on the impact of an accident, a vehicle may end up bursting into flames after an accident and burn its occupants to death. Burns may also occur if vehicle occupants come into contact with steam, chemicals, and hot fluids. Burns may also occur if a vehicle collides with another vehicle carrying highly flammable materials.

Internal Injuries

Some of the internal injuries that may result in car accidents include internal bleeding and organ damage. Organ damage is typical in car accidents, especially in high impact car accidents. Organ damage could lead to internal bleeding and make the damaged organ fail to function correctly. Fatal organ damage often leads to fatal internal bleeding, which eventually leads to death. Other catastrophic internal injuries that may occur in a car accident include:

  • Ruptured spleen
  • Pneumothorax
  • Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm
  • Brain bleeds

After a Fatal Car Accident

After a fatal car accident, the surviving heirs and dependents of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for the loss of their loved one. Some of the people who qualify to file a wrongful death claim are:

  • The deceased person’s spouse or registered domestic partner
  • The children of the deceased, including adopted and step-children
  • The parents
  • Grandchildren if the children are not alive
  • Other persons who depended on the deceased for financial and emotional support

A wrongful death compensates the survivor for the loss of economic support they received from the deceased before his or her death. Children can sue for the loss of love and parental guidance that the deceased parent used to provide. A spouse may sue for the loss of spousal support and companionship.

Find an Orange County Personal Injury Attorney near Me

Have you lost a loved one in a fatal car accident due to the negligence of another person? The Orange County Personal Injury Attorney can help you seek compensation for your loss. Contact us at 714-876-1959 and speak to one of our attorneys.