Highway deaths in California rise for the fourth straight year

California traffic deaths rose in 2014 for the fourth straight year, despite national figures declining slightly.

Last year highway fatalities across the United States remained fairly consistent with one big exception: California. As KQED News reports, traffic deaths in California increased last year despite dropping slightly nationwide. Determining what is behind the increase in fatal car accidents has proven difficult and explanations range from the state's improving economy to the prevalence of distracted driving.

Rising fatality rate

Recently released figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that 32,675 people were killed in motor vehicle collisions across the country in 2014, which was a slight 0.1 percent decrease from the number of people who were killed in 2013.

In California, however, traffic deaths are ticking upwards. Last year, for example, traffic fatalities increased 2.5 percent from 3,000 in 2013 to 3,074 in 2014. Furthermore, the increase appears to be part of a trend, with traffic fatalities increasing each year in the state since 2010, when they had reached a low of 2,715.

What's behind the increase?

Many traffic safety experts are pointing to the state's improving economy to explain the increase in fatalities. An improving economy tends to lead to more traffic since people are better able to afford more and longer trips in their vehicles. However, as the Sacramento Bee reports, increased traffic doesn't always necessitate an increase in traffic fatalities. For example, despite California's population growing massively in the last half century, traffic deaths overall have actually declined over that same period.

Alternatively, many fingers are being pointed at distracted driving. As one official from the Office of Traffic Safety points out, quantifying the role distracted driving plays in fatal accidents is notoriously difficult, since survivors may be reluctant to admit to being distracted and it may prove difficult to ascertain what a deceased motorist was doing prior to his or her collision. However, one government survey has found that smart-phone use while driving has actually increased in California despite the passing of a state law against using hand-held cell phone to text and talk while behind the wheel. By one estimate, personal electronic devices may play a role in up to 20 percent of motor vehicle accidents.

Dealing with an accident

A car accident is a frightening experience, especially if it leads to serious injuries. Not only do crash victims have to cope with the physical pain stemming from their injuries, but they may also be prevented from returning to work either temporarily or permanently. Anybody who has been involved in a car accident, especially if the accident may have been caused by a negligent driver, should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can provide valuable legal advice in the wake of an accident, including by illustrating the possible ways one may be able to pursue financial compensation.