Rise in California traffic deaths blamed on drugged driving

Traffic deaths in California are rising at twice the rate of the national increase due to drugged driving.

Traffic deaths in California are rising rapidly, with the National Safety Council estimating that 2016 traffic deaths rose 13 percent from 2015's figures, according to 89.3 KPCC News. That figure is more than twice the national average and is happening despite the fact that California has some of the strongest traffic safety laws in the country. Experts say that while the rise in fatal motor vehicle accidents is partly due to a resurgence in the economy, they also believe prescription drug abuse may be a key factor.

California traffic fatalities are soaring

The National Safety Council study found that in 2016 there were 3,680 traffic fatalities in California, which is a 13 percent increase over 2015's figures. While California's increase is only a fraction of New Mexico's, which at a staggering 34 percent had the steepest increase in the country, it was still over double the U.S. average. Nationally, traffic fatalities rose by six percent in 2016 from the previous year.

There are a number of reasons why traffic fatalities are rising so dramatically, both in California and elsewhere. The most obvious reason is the resurgence in the economy. As the economy continues to recover, people are able to drive for longer and more frequently. That means that there are simply more opportunities for accidents to occur.

Prescription drugs a main culprit

However, experts know that the improving economy doesn't entirely explain the steep increase in fatalities. That's because the rise in fatalities is outpacing the rise in the number of miles travelled. One of the main reasons California's traffic fatalities have been rising is because of the increase in drugged driving, particularly from prescription drugs.

In fact, as CBS News reports, a recent study looked into the presence of opioids in the systems of drivers who died in car crashes in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. That study found that the presence of opioid drugs in deceased drivers increased sevenfold, from one percent in 1995 to 7.2 percent in 2015. That increase is both a reflection of the ongoing opioid drug epidemic as well as the fact that many drivers are unaware that driving on prescription drugs is a form of impaired driving.

Personal injury law

As motor vehicle accidents continue to rise in California, it is important for motorists to know where they can turn to for help if they are hurt in a crash. A personal injury attorney can assist accident victims with the numerous legal challenges that may arise after an accident, including informing them of what claims they can file and how to most effectively pursue compensation.