Caltrans Report: Speeding and Aggressive Driving Cause Most Crashes

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Speeding was by far the most common cause of crashes. Source: Caltrans Mile Marker

Caltrans crunched four-year-old collision data from the California Highway Patrol and found that nearly twenty percent of traffic-related fatalities and severe injuries are speed-related.

In the 2013 report, the most recent year for which data is available, more than 71,000 collisions were attributed to speeding. Likewise, rear-end collisions occurred far more often than “sideswipes,” the second-leading type.

But, the article continues,

Despite these seemingly large numbers, traffic-related fatalities on California’s highway system — and the nation as a whole — are actually continuing a downward trend.

That is, measuring since 1995, collisions resulting in fatalities and severe injuries declined by as much as 25 percent, despite a small uptick between 2010 and 2013.

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Source: Caltrans Mile Marker

It’s too bad there’s such a huge lag time in collecting information from the CHP. Other sources, such as the National Safety Council, have more recent data that shows national trends have continued that upward tick—and that they took a dramatic leap in the first six months of 2016.

Also unfortunately, the Mile Marker doesn’t help interpret the data. Why, for example, are rear-end crashes far and away the most common type? Could it have something to do with distracted driving? Or maybe it’s because drivers feel invulnerable after years of safety efforts that have focused on the occupants of cars–with airbags and seatbelts–but not on the people they hit?

And why, oh why, is Caltrans still calling crashes “accidents”?

This Mile Marker also charts progress towards some of the department’s 2020 goals, including reducing pedestrian and bicycle fatalities—and let’s just say, there is a ways to go on that one. Fatalities rose between 2012 and 2013, rather dramatically, instead of dropping. What’s happened in the four years since?

Source: Caltrans Mile Marker
Source: Caltrans Mile Marker

The Mile Marker is a newish way for the department to get information out to the public about what it’s up to and why. Other articles in it don’t rely so heavily on old data. They include discussions of the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan and this year’s state budget, great photos of artworks on highway underpasses, and an outline of the California Transportation Plan 2040’s recommendations for reaching state greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

  • dat

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. More bike lobby propaganda. Everyone knows all the collisions are caused by people on bikes rolling stop signs in clear intersections. Duh.

  • M

    Yet in places like the San Fernando Valley, from what I understand it’s pretty much impossible to give someone a speeding ticket. Perfect!

  • SDGreg

    “Why, for example, are rear-end crashes far and away the most common type? Could it have something to do with distracted driving?

    Four years ago I braked to avoid a vehicle that cut me off and got rear-ended by the next four vehicles behind me. It’s obvious in so many ways that way too many drivers are not paying attention. Distracted driving is a much bigger problem that DUI and should have comparable penalties.

    • farazs

      The primary factor in a rear-end collision is “Following to closely” – its pretty much in the phraseology. Yet somehow, Caltrans attributes rear-endings to speed, while you attribute it to distractions. May be the people behind you were paying complete attention, maybe they weren’t. But it is certain that at least some of them were following too closely!

      IMO, not maintaining sufficient distance can manifest in both rear-ending someone and being rear-ended yourself. If you notice someone sucking on your exhaust, the onliest thing to do is gradually ease off the gas and double the distance in front of you. If they don’t back off, keep dropping your speed very very gently. People who tailgate are usually impatient types – they will change lanes and overtake. Don’t know what would have saved you from this particular incident, but in general the more you can avoid being tail-gated, the less likely you are to be rear-ended.

      • SDGreg

        I’ll agree with the following too closely part.

        My solution was to switch to transit once additions to the rapid bus network made it a viable option for my commute and many other trips. I let the bus drivers deal with the other drivers most of the time now.

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