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Commuting in CA: Accident Hotspots and How to Commute Safely

By: Jack Chemtob


SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA USA - 15 JAN 2020: Emergency 911 auto on busy intercity freeway. Paramedic car in traffic jam on highway during rush hour. Transportation concept and transport in metropolis

As the most populated state, California is also the state with the most cars on the road. For commuters, especially busy business people, this translates to congested roads, slow traffic and a higher risk of getting into a car crash. Read on to learn where the hotspots are and how to commute safely.

Driving in CA

California is home to some of the most iconic roads in the country, like the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s also a state with some of the most congested roads. Examples include I-5, a famously slow commute for those heading to LA for work, Highway 101 for the Bay Area, and the Golden Gate Bridge with over 32 million crossings a year.

Driving rules are mostly similar to those in other states, with a few exceptions. The speed limit is only 65 on most highways. There is also a Basic Speed law to keep drivers safe by limiting their speed to the highest safe speed for the road conditions.

In 2021, California passed new laws to make the roads safer. The state extended the “Move Over, Slow Down” rule to make room for emergency vehicles. It also adds a point on the record of drivers who use a cellphone without a hands-free kit.

Accident numbers for California

Data shows that accidents are more likely to occur in the south of the state, but it also shows that the accident rate is proportional to the population.

For instance, the California Office of Traffic Safety has data showing that Humboldt County, in the north of the state, is 18 times larger than Riverside County in the south. Their accident rates are close since Riverside County had 19 times more victims of car crashes than Humboldt County in 2018.

However, rural areas like Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County seem to be safer. While Alhambra in LA County has 25 times more people than Mount Shasta, the number of car crash victims was 120 times higher in 2018.

California accident hotspots

Urban areas are often more dangerous for drivers. California has a few hotspots for crashes along busy roads used daily by commuters. Things got even worse during COVID-19 since more drivers than ever were speeding due to the lighter traffic.

Los Angeles

With more than 36,000 victims killed or injured in 2018, Los Angeles ranks first for the most crashes. It’s also the top city for crashes where alcohol and underage drinking are involved. It’s the second city with the most speed-related crashes.

Besides driving on jammed roads, drivers have to watch out for freeway ramps that cross the road, aggressive drivers, dangerous intersections with no left-turn arrows, and narrow streets.

San Bernardino

Between 2010 and 2019, the number of people injured or killed in car crashes went up by 35% in San Bernardino. San Bernardino car accidents are common because drivers tend to be careless on long rural roads that lead to the city. At the same time, the city has its share of tricky freeway exits and intersections.


The California OTS ranks Sacramento fifth for the most victims killed or injured out of a group of 15 similar cities. Sacramento car accident attorneys know about dangerous intersections, including Arena Boulevard and Truxel Road or Garden Highway and Northgate Boulevard. Plus, flat and wide streets like Laguna Boulevard encourage speeding.

San Diego

As of October, 35 people had died in DUI crashes in San Diego in 2021. This number is already higher than for 2020. The city is taking action with a grant to take drunk drivers to court, but there will always be dangerous spots. For example, Freeway 67 has twists and turns, and the University and Marlborough Avenue intersection sees many crashes.


Lancaster is one city where accidents went up during the pandemic. There were 102 deaths in the Antelope Valley in 2020, making deadly crashes twice as common as usual. Lancaster car accident lawyers often see cases that involve crashes on Lancaster Pike, Lampeter Road, or the dangerous off-ramps on Route 283 and 741.


The California OTS ranks Stockton as the second city with the most car crash victims out of the top 15 cities. There were 2,037 victims in 2018, 305 hit and runs, and 389 speed-related crashes, and commuters have to watch for unsafe driving on dangerous axes like I-5, which is known for multi-car crashes.

San Francisco

San Francisco might not be as dangerous as other cities for car crashes, but it’s the top city for motorcycle crashes in the state. San Francisco car accident attorneys also represent a lot of pedestrians since it’s the third city with the most accidents involving people on foot. Between road construction, congestion, and curves, drivers have to take care on busy roads like US 101, I-80, or Highways 1 and 5.


Berkeley is the top city for pedestrians injured or killed out of 59 cities of a similar size. Residents cite issues like a lack of road maintenance, high traffic, and few options for major transit routes.

How to Commute Safely in CA

As a driver, there are a few things you can do to stay safe on the road:

  • San Francisco car accident attorneys and legal representatives in other cities see many cases where speed is a factor. Remember that the speed limit is 25 mph in residential areas, 55 mph on two-lane undivided highways, and 65 mph on most highways. It’s often safer to drive below the speed limit in heavy traffic or in conditions with limited visibility.
  • In 2019, 50% of all California drivers killed in crashes tested positive for legal or illegal drugs. Don’t drive impaired. It puts you and others at risk.
  • Limit distractions when driving. Answering your phone while driving is now illegal in California unless you have a hands-free kit. Car accident attorneys in Modesto will also advise you to use a safe driving app to limit interruptions.
  • Rethink your commute. Is there a way to avoid dangerous off-ramps or to take a route with less traffic?

The importance of infrastructure and road maintenance

The Golden State is actively developing its infrastructure to reduce congestion and make roads safer. For instance, an extra lane was recently created on I-5 south of Sacramento to handle heavy traffic.

In San Jose, a city-wide project is close to being completed. The project resulted in the city adding more high-visibility crosswalks, traffic signals and speed radars.

Alternatives to driving could also reduce traffic. There is a proposal to build a safe route for biking from Santa Clara to San Jose. This project would keep cyclists safer and could reduce the number of cars on the roads.

Likewise, $500 million in grants are available to build a better public transit and rail system to give residents more commuting options.

It’s also important to maintain the existing infrastructure. Issues like worn-out paving and potholes can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, especially when speeding. Plus, poor road quality increases wear-and-tear on vehicles and makes mechanical failure more likely, which could result in a crash. A big challenge in road maintenance is that construction can make commuting less safe.

Insurance and California accident claims

California is one of the most expensive states for car insurance even though the minimum requirements are simple:

  • Drivers have to carry $15,000 per person for bodily injury liability coverage.
  • There is a minimum of $30,000 in coverage per accident.
  • Drivers also need to be covered for a minimum of $5,000 in property damages.

Glendale car accident attorneys and experts from other cities will tell you that accident claims can be complex. California is an at-fault state that recognizes shared liability. Depending on how a car crash happened, a driver might be fully responsible, but in many cases, two or more parties are responsible.

These cases can be complex, so it’s best to have an attorney by your side. Reach out to a California car accident lawyer today.

Published: November 11, 2021

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Jack Chemtob

Jack Chemtob is the founder and CEO of Accident.com, a leading network of nationwide injury attorneys. I’m responsible for corporate strategy, executive team leadership and overall business operations across all the company’s segments. With over 10 years of experience, he's held various strategic and operating positions at companies including SOSV (the largest seed VC), Morgan Stanley (in investor relations), and Warby Parker (in customer experience operations)

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