California can already claim one of its own regions as the most traffic-congested in the nation, certainly not due to lack of the residents going to traffic school online. Los Angeles and the surrounding area’s dreadfully perfect combination of limited rail infrastructure and public transit systems, heavy driving culture, and sheer local and commuter population size all contribute to the hour-long drive to work (even though many morning commutes are under 6 miles). The cityis so jam-packed with single-passenger vehicles to the point that taking public transportation is almost taboo.
It comes as no surprise, then, that California, particularly due to the densely populated Los Angeles county region, has a long history of terrible automobile accidents. There were 3,435 traffic-related deaths in 2015 with motorists dying every day in southern California alone. While efforts are being made to alleviate traffic and minimize the number of vehicles on the road, the problematic area has a long way to go before it can help lower the amount of automobile deaths it contributes to the state’s record.
With the above statistics in mind, and with a heavy concentration on the southern part of the state, here are some of the worst accidents in the Golden State’s history.
November 29, 1991 – Interstate 5
A massive 93-car pileup, including 11 semi-trucks/big rigs occurred about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on the state’s main north-south freeway during a traffic rush around Thanksgiving. Drivers blamed poor visibility due to dense fog and breezes of loose dirt during the drought season. Warped, charred, and crunched metal littered the scene as highway patrol officers shut down a 150-mile portion of the freeway, reporting that the accident claimed 17 lives; some of the victims burned so badly it would take days to identify them.
November 3, 2002 – Los Angeles
An early morning fog hung thick over the 710 freeway south of Los Angeles, causing a semi-truck to crash into the center concrete divider and begin a whopping 216-car collision over a two-mile stretch of highway. While injuries were reported, there were surprisingly no fatalities, only a daunting, expensive cleanup, a highway shutdown, and a long list of auto insurance claims.
November 3, 2007 – Fresno
Another dense seasonal fog caused poor visibility of about two feet, resulting in a 100-car pileup injuring a few dozen and leaving a 5-year-old boy and a 26-year-old man dead on highway 99. Though nowhere near the beginning or end of incidents like this, these driving conditions demonstrate a trend in California’s seasonal accident rates. California’s coastal regions form thick fogs in the fall and winter months, greatly increasing the accident rate for that time of year.
While the accidents explained above are only a few specific incidents, California (and again, southern California) is plagued with an above-average rate of automobile accidents and fatalities. Alongside the 3,435 automobile fatalities in 2015, 254,561 drivers were injured. The two highest age groups for fatalities were young; 15-24 and 25-36, with a total of 1,354 deaths that year.
Some accidents and conditions are beyond the control of the driver. But in especially unsafe conditions, particularly those mentioned above, it is never unreasonable to wait out the weather. Take your time! Find a coffee shop nearby and play it safe; make a mini destination out of it. California’s beautiful highways and long coastal stretches allow for a plethora of interesting tourist stops and destinations along the way to your final stop.