California has tied with New Jersey for the dubious honor of seeing the largest increase in the number of people killed in a traffic collision in 2011. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data for 2011 show that both New Jersey and California had 71 more deaths on their state roadways than the previous year.

North Dakota saw the largest increase in terms of a percentage (41 percent) but this was just 43 traffic related deaths.

Nationwide there was a decline in the number in the number of traffic related fatalities, when all the states data is cobbled together. As a nation we posted a decline of almost 2 percent when it comes to traffic related fatalities, but that still meant that 32,367 people were killed on our country’s roadways.

California Office of Traffic Safety said they weren’t surprised by the increase, citing the fact that even with the increase over 2010 numbers the 2011 numbers were still among the lowest the state has shown since the 1940’s. California had 2,791 traffic related fatalities in 2011, an increase of about 2.5 percent from the year prior. As a percentage it seems small, but when you consider it represents an additional 71 people killed needlessly, the statistic has a much bigger impact.

California, unlike a state like Rhode Island, suffers from a multitude of issues which contribute to dangers on the roads. For instance, their population grew more than 1 percent in 2011. With a population of more than 37,000,000 that meant an additional 370,000 people crowded into the state. (During that same year Rhode Island population decline .2 percent or about 2,500 people.)

Not only is the population a factor, but also that the population is clustered in specific areas like Los Angeles County; San Diego and San Francisco. The state also has more miles of roads than just about other state including a complex freeway system and it sees a huge tourist population; millions of people flood into the state each year to visit the ocean, the mountains, Hollywood or any of the myriad other sites to see in California.

No doubt the California Highway Patrol is well aware of the increase and is likely already taking steps to prevent the number from rising highway in coming years.