Are economic changes driving the rise in fatal California car crashes?

Traffic deaths in California have risen for several years, and research suggests this pattern may persist as the economy improves and gas prices stay low.

For years, catastrophic car accidents and traffic fatalities have shown an overall pattern of decline throughout much of the U.S. Unfortunately, in Fremont and other parts of California, serious auto accidents have only become more common over the past several years. Troublingly, research suggests that this problem may only worsen as the economy improves and as gas prices remain low.

Troubling accident trends

Since 2010, the number of fatal auto accidents recorded annually in California has risen every year, according to KQED News. These accidents increased 13.2 percent from 2010 to 2014. The rate of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, which accounts for differences in local population and driving habits, also increased. Tragically, in 2014, a total of 3,074 lives were lost in fatal auto accidents.

The rate of these accidents rose even more markedly from 2014 to early 2015, according to The Los Angeles Times. Data from the National Safety Council shows that traffic deaths that occurred during the first six months of the year in California jumped a significant 20 percent between 2014 and 2015. The 1,566 fatalities recorded during the first half of 2015 was the highest number reported in any state save Texas.

Potential causative factors

Various factors could be contributing to this ongoing increase in fatal car crashes. The NSC cites the rise of distracted driving as one likely contributing factor. However, economic changes that encourage more commuting may also be driving the rise in serious crashes. The Los Angeles Times notes that, with unemployment down, more people are regularly commuting for work. Decreased gas prices may also encourage a greater number of people to drive more frequently.

Research additionally suggests that the current decline in gas prices might indirectly give rise to a heightened risk of accidents. National Public Radio notes that many habits that conserve fuel, such as accelerating and driving at more moderate speeds, also help mitigate the risk of accidents. When motorists are less concerned with driving efficiently to keep their fuel costs down, they may drive in a manner that makes accidents more likely.

According to KQED News, past research from the California Office of Traffic Safety reveals that traffic fatalities in the state generally fall during periods of economic recession. Accidents then pick back up as the economy improves. This finding suggests that accidents may only continue increasing as the economy recovers and as gas prices remain affordable.

Remedies after accidents

Since serious car crashes are now occurring more frequently in California, local drivers can benefit from understanding their rights in the event of an accident. If another driver causes a crash while engaging in a negligent behavior, such as speeding or distracted driving, that driver may be found liable for any injuries or other damages that result. Victims may be able to recover compensation for their medical costs, income loss, pain and suffering and more.

Accident victims or their surviving family members may benefit from consulting with an attorney to learn more about their rights and options for seeking compensation. An attorney may be able to offer advice on the relevant laws and other guidance during the personal injury claim process.