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Car Accidents in California: A 2021 Recap

According to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), 54,589 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents nationwide in 1972—the record high for a single year. In the following decades, significant progress was made. New regulations, better education, reduced drunk driving, and automotive safety improvements made a real difference. In 2011, there were 32,479 reported car accident fatalities in the United States. That marked a 60 year low. 

Unfortunately, since 2011, the highway trend has reversed—and the situation has gotten much worse since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that our country is seeing the most catastrophic car accidents in nearly two decades. California is no exception. Here, our Stockton car accident lawyers provide an overview of motor vehicle collisions in California in 2021.  

Car Accident Statistics for 2021: “The Report is Sobering”

On October 28th, 2021, the federal government released its initial report for highway safety for 2021. The Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Half (January-June) of 2021 contains some shocking findings: Catastrophic and fatal car accidents are up in every region of the country. The NHTSA reports that 20,160 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents between January 1st, 2021 and June 30th, 2021. 

For reference, 16,988 people were killed in car crashes during the same period in 2019 (pre-COVID-19 pandemic). A decade earlier, in the first half of the record-low year of 2011, only 14,953 were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Car accident deaths have increased by nearly 50 percent in the last decade. Dr. Steven Cliff, the Deputy Administrator of NHTSA, called the report “sobering” and noted that we all “must work together” to fix the problem. 

Fatal Car Accidents in California Rising Faster than the National Average

We are still waiting on comprehensive highway safety data for 2021 from the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Typically, the full report will not come out until at least 12 months after a year ends. That being said, we already have access to some early federal data for the state. The NHTSA report finds that car accident fatalities in “region 9” —which is made up of just two states, California and Arizona—spiked by more than 25 percent when compared to the previous year. That is an even sharper increase than the already alarming 18.4 percent nationwide average. 

What is Going Wrong? Four Reasons Why Major Car Accidents are Rising in 2021

The data is clear: U.S. roadways (including in California) have been getting more dangerous since 2011. Further, the data also shows that the situation has become much worse since March of 2020. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done to figure out exactly what is going wrong on our highways. However, federal and state highway safety officials believe that an increase in risky driving behaviors is a major cause. A government report called Continuation of Research on Traffic Safety During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency highlights four specific areas of concern: 

  1. Speeding: Early evidence suggests drivers are speeding more often. Speeding is dangerous. Not only does it increase the risk of a crash, but it increases the likelihood that an accident will result in catastrophic injuries or a fatality.   
  2. Intoxicated Driving: Intoxicated driving has long been a major problem in California and throughout the United States. While evidence suggests that drunk driving rates are relatively flat (with much improvement still necessary), drugged driving is increasing.  
  3. Distracted Driving: More motorists now have a smartphone with them. An unfortunate consequence of this is that distracted driving is becoming a bigger safety problem. Distracted driving, especially texting and driving, can be as dangerous as drunk driving. 
  4. Less Seat Belt Use: Finally, NHTSA’s latest behavioral study finds that people are actually wearing their seat belts less than they used to just a few years ago. Buckle up every time. A seat belt can prevent injuries and save lives. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Top Stockton, CA Car Accident Lawyer

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton motor vehicle accident attorneys have the professional skills and legal experience that you can rely on. With more than $25 million recovered for our clients, we are more than ready to get started on your case. Give us a call at 209-267-4589 or send us a direct message for a free review of your personal injury claim. We represent auto accident victims throughout the area, including in Stockton, Lodi, Lathrop, Manteca, Galt, Elk Grove, and Woodbridge.