California traffic deaths spiked for second year in a row in 2021

Traffic deaths in California surged by 10.7% in 2021 relative to 2020, mirroring a grim upward trend observed nationwide, according to estimates released this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The federal agency reported that an estimated 4,258 people died in vehicle crashes in California last year — up from 3,847 in 2020 — marking the second year in a row that traffic deaths have increased in the state. The total represents about one-tenth of all the traffic deaths in the country in 2021 and is indicative, state transportation officials said, of a “crisis on our roads.”

“It is beyond tragic that nearly 10% of all traffic deaths in the country last year occurred on California roads — 4,258 lives cut short and countless families who will never get to see a loved one again,” California State Transportation Agency Secretary Toks Omishakin and California Office of Traffic Safety Director Barbara Rooney said in a joint statement. (Californians make up about 12% of the United States population, according to US Census Bureau figures).

Across the country, traffic deaths spiked by 10.5% in 2021 compared to 2020, with 44 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico all reporting increases. An estimated 42,915 people — more than enough to fill the seats at Oracle Park — were killed on the road in 2021. It’s the highest traffic death toll in the US in 16 years, according to NHTSA estimates.

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