California is the most populous state in the United States of America with an estimated 39.78 million people living within its boundaries. It is loved and famed for its beautiful scenery centered around major cities, and contains the second largest city in the United States; Los Angeles. It is also home to several world-renowned locations and attractions such as Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood Universal Studios and many more.
However, besides all of these wonderful things about California, the one thing that potentially overshadows them is the rise and alarming statistics regarding car accidents and fatalities in its metropolis, suburbs and the entire state altogether. This has been a major concern for local authorities as dwellers have become regular victims of car accidents.
The vast majority of these accidents are likely caused by no more than ten different factors, which are herein discussed.
These ten most common causes of car accidents in California as discussed below are mostly based on facts and information obtained from, among other sources, the database of the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS,) which is maintained by the California Highway Patrol.
The Top 10 Causes of Car Accidents, in no Particular Order Are:
1. Unsafe and/or Over Speeding
One of the leading causes of car accidents in California can be traced to unchecked or over speeding on the roads. Unsafe or overspeeding is not just about driving above the speed limit. For instance, driving within the speed limit during a bad weather condition such as a snowstorm or heavy ran would still be considered driving at an unsafe speed, even though it technically isn’t overspeeding.
California’s Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) reported that there were 72,291 speeding related injuries and 995 speeding related fatalities in 2014. More so, in the same year, there were 1,282,881 statewide speeding convictions. The above stats just go to give a glimpse of the state and problem of overspeeding and/or unsafe speeding not just in California, but nationwide.
The vast majority of these fatalities and other personal injuries and property damages could have been averted if the drivers had been driving at safer speeds. This is because driving at a lesser speed always gives the driver more time to react than when they drive at a higher speed. This ultimately results in a higher rate of personal injury and in worse case scenarios, death. This is one of the reasons why there is such a high demand for personal injury lawyers, because of the high rates and numbers of people who get injured in these automobile accidents.
2. Improper or Illegal Turning
As simple as it may sound, a careless turn can result in a very serious car accident. This could be a careless turn, an impatience one, a badly timed or speedy turn (drifting). In California, improper turning by drivers resulted in 85,967 car accidents in 2007. While an offender caught in such an act will likely be given a ticket fine, it can get much worse and serious if such an illegal turn results in an accident and/or injury to another individual, which can potentially ensure prosecution.
3. Violating Traffic Signs and Signals.
Another huge cause of auto accidents in California are drivers in the habit of violating traffic signals and stop signs. This comes in varying degrees and instances such as failing to stop at traffic lights, not maintaining the recommended distance between vehicles, refusing to yield the right of way, turning at prohibited points, disregarding traffic signs. When drivers neglect or disobey these signals or signs, the aftermath can be quite devastating as it often results in side-impacts and read-end collisions, which is a major cause of whiplash injuries. According to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), this factor caused 12,494 injuries and 138 deaths in 2013.
4. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Drugs (DWI/DUI)
This happens to be another of the most notorious causes of car accidents in California. In 2007 alone, drunk driving caused an alarming 1,404 wrongful deaths. Despite a huge crusade against drunk-driving, it still ranks among the leading causes of auto crashes in the state. The Office of Traffic Safety records that more than one-quarter of traffic deaths resulted from alcohol-related crashes in the last several years.
In 2013, almost one out of every three drivers who died from a car accident, was due to the influence of prescription or illegal drugs, or alcohol. That same year, the SWITRS recorded 11,861 accident related injuries and 568 deaths from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In 2014, more than 880 lost their lives to this cause of car accidents in California.
From 2003 to 2012, 10,327 people died in California as a result of drunk driving related accidents. Indeed, the issue of driving under the influence is a very serious one which can have severe consequences for a lot of people.
5. Unsafe Lane Changes
A large number of car accidents are also known to occur as a result of drivers simply drifting out of their lanes without paying proper attention to traffic on the other lane. Similarly, people are also known to fail to signal with their trafficator lights when they are about change lanes, or they simply just do so very late. The repercussions can be grave in some instances. 15,574 car accidents occurred in 2007 due to this factor and in 2013, 6521 injuries were recorded with 56 wrongful deaths.
6. Incorrect Traffic Merging
Improper, ill-timed or bad merging have risen through the ranks as one of the leading causes of car accidents in California. In 2007, it was the third highest. It might seem such a simple thing, but a lot of people are confused as to who has the right-of-way onto a freeway, and it is exactly this confusion that has caused many an accident. However, to clear it up once and for all, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles Handbook, freeway traffic has the right of way.
7. Wrong Side of the Road
Driving on the wrong side of the road which is infamously known as one-way driving is one of the leading causes of direct or head on collisions. Negligence or disobedience of one-way street signs could prove fatal in some cases as oncoming trucks and speeding cars or even pedestrians can be involved in such accidents. Also, this can be caused by the influence of alcohol or drugs. These kinds of accidents often occur at nights in California and on weekends.
In 2013, 5,257 injuries and 129 deaths occurred due to driving on the wrong side of the road.
8. Pedestrian Road Violation
According to the LA Times, California had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the country for two straight years running in 2013 and 2014, with an estimated 700 deaths in motor vehicle accidents. According to the same LA Times story, 23% of all motor vehicle fatalities in California were pedestrians. While not as high as DC’s 45%, this no doubt is quite worrying trend.
Some of the leading causes of pedestrian accidents have been identified as speeding, unmarked crosswalks, arterial roads, alcohol, quiet cars, among others.
In situations where a pedestrian has been injured in an vehicle-related accident, in which the driver of the vehicle is at-fault, the victim may end up filing a car accident claim against the driver who caused the accident, and in cases of criminal negligence, the driver may face prosecution.
9. Following too Close/Failing to Keep Necessary Distance
Multiple accidents often occur as a result of not keeping the appropriate distance between the vehicles though they are rarely fatal. This is mostly the fault and negligence of the defaulting driver. In 2013, 3,587 injuries and 3 deaths were caused by this factor.
10. Distracted Driving
With the advent of phone technology, car accidents have been on the increase. In 2007, 4,704 wrongful deaths were accounted to have resulted from drivers using their phones while behind the wheel or eating a fast food takeout or distracted by some scenery or persons. Other instances include unrestricted talking with other passengers or quarrels, applying makeup, drinking coffee, playing with the stereo or other passengers. In 2014, the local authorities ticketed and convicted over 426,000 drivers for using a cellphone while driving. California’s office of Traffic Safety records that 80 percent of California crashes were caused by distractions of whatever kind.
There are other variable causes of car accidents in California but these ten causes of car accidents are top of the list with regard to research and statistics offered by reliable sources. These causes often tend towards the negligence of the driver or in other cases a third party or both of parties. This makes compensation available to a car accident victim across the States and in California. For instance, using a mobile phone while driving in California is illegal. While you may not be able to prosecute the driver for such offence, you may be entitled to compensation from his negligent acts and the resultant injury. So, if you or your loved one have been a victim of a car accident or perhaps you lost a loved one to a car accident which was a wrongful death caused by the driver’s fault, you should file a car accident claim to get your compensation.
If you have been a victim of a car accident, it is highly recommended that you speak to a California Car Accident Lawyer to work on your claim for you and help you recover any due compensation.