California Traffic Deaths In 2011 Increased, While U.S. Hits Six-Decade Low


Kathleen Miles is the executive editor and cofounder of Noema Magazine. She can be reached on Twitter at @mileskathleen.

California is bucking nationwide trends when it comes to fatal traffic accidents. While the number of fatal collisions dropped to its lowest point in more than six decades throughout the U.S., California saw an increase in 2011.

According to recently released federal transportation data, 32,367 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2011, a decrease of 1.9 percent from 2010. And while thirty-six states saw a reduction in fatalities, California experienced a 2.6 percent increase, with 2,791 fatal traffic accidents in 2011. That’s more traffic accidents than any other state besides Texas, which had 3,023 fatalities.

Nationally, pedestrian fatalities increased by three percent in 2011, pedalcyclist fatalities increased by 8.7 percent and motorcyclist fatalities increased 14 percent.

A study earlier this year found that in car-addicted Los Angeles, pedestrians accounted for about a third of all traffic fatalities, or nearly triple the national average.

In response, Los Angeles has begun to focus on pedestrian safety. The city’s department of transportation recently hired its first-ever “pedestrian coordinator,” Margot O’Cañas.

O’Cañas told HuffPost in October that she plans to improve signaling, striping, crosswalks, signage and lighting in consideration of everyone from children walking to school to elderly people who have trouble making it across LA’s unusually wide streets.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also announced a new pedestrian safety initiative Monday that will add new visible crosswalks at 53 dangerous intersections.

Traffic safety coalition Watch the Road will also launch an educational campaign, including ads on billboards, bus shelters and bus panels.