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California car accident statistics

California is one of the deadliest states in the US for car accidents.

California sees the highest number of fatal car accidents in the US each year. It’s also the second-highest in terms of how many people die in those accidents, falling slightly below Texas.

We looked at data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to bring you the latest statistics on car accidents in California.

Over 3,300 Californians die in car accidents each year — five times the national average

An average of 3,322 Californians die in car accidents each year, based on 10 years’ worth of data from the NHTSA Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool.

To compare, the US averages 684 people killed in car accidents each year. The number of Californians killed in crashes has risen 33% from 2010 to 2019.

The number of people killed is slightly higher than the number of fatal crashes because, in some cases, multiple fatalities happen in the same car accident.

YearPeople killed in car accidentsFatal car accidents in California

21- to 25-year-olds at the highest risk

The age group most at risk of dying from a crash in California is 21- to 25-year-olds. Historically, this group dies 1.5 times more often than 16- to 20-year-olds, and twice as often as 41- to 45-year-olds.

Age group# killed in car accidents, 2019# killed in car accidents, 2010-2019

Men die 2.6 times more often in car accidents than women

In California, 2,398 men are killed in car accidents every year, according to the NHTSA, compared to 923 women who die in crashes annually. Men account for over 70% of California’s crash fatalities, dying 2.6 times more often than women.

Compare car accident deaths by gender, including the average per year from 2010 to 2019.

GenderTotal deaths, 2019Total deaths, 2010 – 2019Average deaths per year

55% of California’s fatal crashes involve speeding and drunk driving

Speeding and drunk driving continue to be top mistakes that drivers make before a fatal accident. In California, 29% of fatal crashes involve speeding and 26% involve drunk driving, according to the latest 2019 NHTSA data.

Nationally, 26% of fatal crashes involve speeding and 28% involve drunk driving in 2019. Some factors like distracted driving may be underreported because they may not be known after a fatal accident.

Violation/driver error# of fatal accidents% of accidents California% of accidents Nationally
Drunk driving (Blood alcohol content of .08 or higher)85126%28%

The 10 deadliest cities for driving in California

Los Angeles gets the infamous No. 1 rank as the deadliest California city for driving. It accounts for 8% of the state’s fatal accidents over a 10-year span.

Californians die three to nine times more often from a car crash in Los Angeles than any other city in our rankings.

RankMost dangerous cities# of fatal crashes, 2010-2019
1Los Angeles2,471
2San Diego784
3San José527
7San Francisco311
8Long Beach298
9San Bernardino278

Urban vs. rural: Two-thirds of California’s fatalities happen near a city

Car accidents near a California city are deadlier than those in the countryside. In 2019, 2,463 people died from crashes in urban areas, compared to 1,135 people in rural spots. Californians die twice as often in urban areas versus rural areas.

Safest cities for driving in California

All of these California cities reported one fatal car accident from 2010 to 2019. A 10-year record of almost no deadly crashes is an impressive feat.

  • Acampo
  • Airport-San Francisco
  • Alamo
  • Altadena
  • American Canyon
  • Angels Camp
  • Bay Point
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
  • Camarillo Heights
  • Caruthers
  • Colusa
  • Corning
  • Crescent City
  • Crockett
  • Del Roy Oaks
  • Dorris
  • Dos Palos
  • Earlimart
  • El Dorado Hills
  • El Dorado
  • El Sobrante
  • Exeter
  • La Canada Flintridge
  • Grover Beach
  • Guadalupe
  • Gustine
  • Hillsborough
  • Ione
  • Laytonville
  • Live Oak
  • Loomis
  • Los Molinos
  • Mcfarland
  • Maricopa
  • Mariposa
  • Mendocino
  • Mill Valley
  • Monte Sereno
  • Moraga
  • Morongo Valley
  • Mount Shasta
  • Newhall
  • Oakhurst
  • Orland
  • Rolling Hills
  • Rumsey
  • San Juan Bautista
  • Sierra Madre
  • Shasta
  • Strawberry Valley
  • Susanville
  • Sutter Creek
  • Tiburon
  • Trinidad
  • Westmorland
  • Wheatland
  • Winters
  • Yountville

Single-car crashes cause twice as many deaths as two-vehicle crashes

In 2019, 2,101 Californians died in single-car accidents, compared to 1,198 people killed in two-vehicle crashes. Another 307 people died in accidents with more than two vehicles involved.

Single-car crashes also make up 60% of all fatal crashes in California. That percentage gets even higher in California’s major cities.

For example, single-car crashes make up 69% of deadly accidents in Los Angeles, 73% in San Diego and 67% in San José.

CitySingle-vehicle crash fatalitiesTwo-vehicle crash fatalitiesTotal fatal crashes in 2019% of fatal crashes w/ single vehicle
Los Angeles1756925469%
San Diego61198473%
San Jose49197367%
San Francisco2293465%
Long Beach2693672%

California drivers hit 980 pedestrians in 2019

California isn’t the safest place for taking a stroll near a busy road. Pedestrians account for 27% of all people killed in car accidents, based on 2019 NHTSA data.

Pedestrian deaths total 8,098 from the years 2010-2019, making up 24% of all people killed in crashes in a 10-year span.

Motorcycles are involved in 484 fatal crashes each year

Motorcycles were involved in 4,837 fatal accidents from 2010-2019, averaging 484 motorcycle accidents per year.

In 2019, motorcycles were involved in 468 fatal crashes, making up 14% of all fatal vehicle accidents in California. The conclusion: California drivers don’t pay attention to the little guys on the road.

The NHTSA doesn’t show how many motorcyclists are killed in these accidents. However, motorcyclists likely make up most of the deaths involved. Motorcycles are smaller and offer less protection for riders than other vehicles.

Deadly crashes happen most often at night

Nighttime driving led to 1,903 deadly crashes in 2019, making up 57% of fatal accidents. Specifically, between 8 p.m.and 10 p.m. were the most dangerous hours to drive.

To compare, 1,347 deadly accidents happened during the daytime. The most dangerous morning hours for driving were 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Hour# of fatal crashes in 2019
12:00-12:59 a.m.143
1:00-1:59 a.m.135
2:00-2:59 a.m.117
3:00-3:59 a.m.97
4:00-4:59 a.m.115
5:00-5:59 a.m.148
6:00-6:59 a.m.139
7:00-7:59 a.m.104
8:00-8:59 a.m.85
9:00-9:59 a.m.68
10:00-10:59 a.m.79
11:00-11:59 a.m.109
12:00-12:59 p.m.121
1:00-1:59 p.m.113
2:00-2:59 p.m.119
3:00-3:59 p.m.125
4:00-4:59 p.m.118
5:00-5:59 p.m.167
6:00-6:59 p.m.197
7:00-7:59 p.m.186
8:00-8:59 p.m.201
9:00-9:59 p.m.210
10:00-10:59 p.m.179
11:00-11:59 p.m.175

Not surprisingly, the weekend is most dangerous for driving

The most dangerous days for driving in California are Saturday, Friday and Sunday, in that order. These days are likely the deadliest because more people run errands, go out for entertainment or plan trips on the weekend.

The most dangerous weekday for driving is Monday.

Day of week# of fatal crashes in 2019

August is the most dangerous month for driving in California

In August, Californians should heighten their senses on the road since most fatalities happen that month. In 2019, 334 people died in crashes in August, a little over 9% of total road deaths for the year.

November and June follow closely behind, all marking months of seasonal changes. For instance, many people plan summer vacations in June, return to school in August and travel for the holidays in November.

MonthPeople killed in crashes, 2019

Cloudy skies play the biggest role in weather-related crashes

When the weather is involved in a deadly accident, cloudiness is the most common condition. About 423 fatal crashes happen during cloudy weather in California, based on 2019 NHTSA data. Another 216 deadly crashes happen when it’s raining.

It’s easy to forget that overcast skies lower your visibility when driving. Stay alert and slow down to avoid accidents when the weather isn’t 70 degrees and sunny in California.


We used the NHTSA’s Fatality and Injury Reporting Tool to compile information about fatal car accidents and the people killed in car accidents in California. We compared data from 2019 as well as data spanning 10 years from 2010-2019.

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