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Are California roads becoming safer?

With California being a hotbed of technology development related to autonomous cars, you have no doubt heard many reports touting the alleged safety improvements that many believe may be realized as these vehicles are allowed onto the roads. This belief is rooted in large part on the knowledge that human error and decision making is at the heart of many crashes that happen today. Even cars that are not fully autonomous may well include some autonomous features yet these seem to not be making a dent in reducing traffic fatalities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that the number of people killed on California roadways has jumped significantly from 2012 to 2016. In 2012, there were 2,966 vehicular fatalities followed by 3,107 and then 3,102 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. In 2015, deaths number 3,387 and then spiked even further to 3,623 in 2016. This trend was seen in Los Angeles County alone as death counts rose every one of these years starting at 616 in 2012 and culminating with 794 in 2016.

Two factors within the scope of human choice continue to be seen as playing roles in many accident deaths - alcohol and speed. Statewide fatalities involving alcohol numbered 1,059 in 2016 which was a noticeable increase from the 829 in 2012. Excessive speed contributed to the deaths of 1,056 drivers, passengers, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists across all counties in California in 2016. This was a noted increase from the 954 deaths in 2012.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to highlight to California residents the ongoing challenges associated with reducing motor vehicle accidents and improving safety on the roads.

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