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Is California’s reputation for bad driving earned?


Claims of California’s reputation for bad drivers are not without merit. Automobile safety experts have decried the way Golden State residents operate their respective motor vehicles. The state is well aware of the problem, implementing various initiatives to improve their ranking nationwide, from emission standards to Autobahn-like freeway lanes.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation released startling statistics. They reported a nationwide increase of fatal traffic accidents by 12 percent during the initial nine months of 2021, compared to the same time frame the previous year. Within California confines, the increase was 17.2 percent, or 3,246 drivers and passengers losing their lives.

Specific data paint a dire picture

California is well behind the 12 states that outrank their stats. Idaho is on top with 36.4 percent growth in dangerous motor vehicle operations. However, the skyrocketing numbers are particularly alarming, considering that far fewer vehicles were on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 2021 study by Quote Wizard painted a much different and more dire picture. Examining two million insurance quotes covering everything from citations to serious accidents, including drunk driving, California ranked fourth in the worst drivers category coast to coast. More specific rankings included fifth DUIs and 37th in speeding tickets.

Bankrate, a financial comparison site, deemed California the worst state to own and operate a vehicle. The state ranked seventh-worst in the category of driving skills. In addition to the significant number of accidents and traffic infractions, California had the most DUI arrests in 2019, at more than 120,000.

Statistica also highlighted the effect alcohol had in severe and fatal crashes in the state. From 2009 to 2018, California-based crashes involving drivers impaired by alcohol saw 9,288 people lose their lives, second only to Texas’ 13,592.

Statistics may reveal the driving problem that continues to plague California, but the aftermath of the accidents is the real story. Serious injuries due to reckless, inattentive, and drunk driving leave families grieving over a family member’s death and primary wage earner. Criminal courts can dispense justice. However, that does not account for the massive losses suffered by loved ones.