Free consultation (800) 362-7427

Leading Causes of Fatal Car Accidents in California

Posted on March 20, 2023 in Car Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death in the State of California and nationwide. Every year, thousands of Californians lose their lives in deadly and preventable car accidents. Learning the leading causes of these devastating collisions can help prevent them in the future.

Common causes of traffic fatalities in california

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol

It is illegal in all 50 states to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Yet, every year, thousands of drivers cause car accidents and are arrested for this crime in the State of California. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, the state had 3,606 traffic accident fatalities in 2019 (the most recent data available). This was a 5.1 percent decrease from 3,798 fatalities in 2018.

Approximately 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in California in 2019 involved driver impairment from the use of alcohol and/or drugs. Statistics show that 1,066 traffic fatalities in California involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Even more concerning is that 50 percent of all drivers killed in motor vehicle collisions in 2019, who were tested, tested positive for drugs – an 8 percent increase from 2018. Drunk driving is an extremely reckless behavior that can lead to both criminal and civil consequences for the driver.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving refers to operating a motor vehicle while dedicating less than 100 percent of the driver’s attention to the driving task. This is a dangerous driver error that can cause serious and deadly motor vehicle collisions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 3,142 people lost their lives in car accidents involving distracted drivers in 2020. This accounted for about 8 percent of all fatal car accidents in the country in 2020.

Distraction and inattention can make it impossible for a driver to notice changing roadway situations in time to react and avoid an accident. The most dangerous cause of driver distraction is cell phone use. For this reason, California and many other states have enacted laws against the use of handheld electronic devices while driving. Unfortunately, this is a law that is often broken, especially by younger drivers. Statistics reported 83 teen driver fatalities (ages 16 to 19) in California in 2019. Other examples of distracted driving include eating and drinking, personal grooming, and daydreaming.


Speeding, or driving too fast for conditions, increases the chances of a car accident being catastrophic or deadly for those involved. The human body can only withstand so much force. If you increase the speed of a motor vehicle collision, you also increase the amount of force that is exerted upon the occupants of each vehicle. A car accident that takes place at 90 miles per hour is much more likely to cause fatal injuries than one at 20 miles per hour. Sadly, speeding claims hundreds of lives in California each year.

Reckless or Aggressive (Road Rage) Driving

If a motor vehicle driver engages in reckless or aggressive driving tactics, this increases the odds of a severe car accident. Excessive speeding, racing, tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, drifting into other lanes, passing where prohibited, driving on the shoulder, running red lights and ignoring traffic signals, and wrong-way driving are all examples of dangerous road rage behaviors. If an aggressive driver causes a deadly car accident, he or she can be held responsible for the death of a victim.

Taking Legal Action After a Deadly Car Accident in California

If someone you love tragically lost his or her life in a fatal car accident in California, your family may be able to file a wrongful death claim. This type of lawsuit pursues financial compensation or damages from the person or party at-fault for the collision. While no amount of money can make up for the life of your loved one, a fair compensatory award can help you pay for reasonable funeral and burial costs, medical bills, and other losses connected to the fatal crash so that you can move forward.

To learn more about your legal rights after a deadly car crash in Los Angeles, contact an attorney at Rose, Klein & Marias, LLP. We will listen to your story and let you know if your family has grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.