Where Are California’s Deadliest Roads, and What Factors Contribute Most to its Fatal Accidents?

Using the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, MoneyGeek analyzed 10,370 fatal crashes to find the deadliest roads in California. We also explored some of the most common factors associated with fatal crashes in the state.

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MoneyGeek analyzed the most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find the deadliest roads in California, the nation’s most populous state. Of California’s 396,540 miles of road, MoneyGeek analyzed 4,451 roads.

The study looked at 10,370 fatal car accidents recorded from 2017 to 2019 and examined how factors like drunk driving, speeding distracted driving and time of year contributed to fatal crashes in the state. MoneyGeek also summarized data for each county in California, including the deadliest road in each county.

Key Findings:

10 Deadliest Road Stretches in California

I-15 Between Exit 138 and Exit 129

Hesperia
Hesperia map

Fatal Accidents: 19

Fatalities: 19

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 4.2

Distance: 4.5 miles

I-80 Between Exit 14A and Exit 8A

Berkeley | Oakland | Emeryville | Albany
Berkeley | Oakland | Emeryville | Albany map

Fatal Accidents: 15

Fatalities: 17

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 3

Distance: 5 miles

I-80 from Exit 15 to Exit 21

Richmond | El Cerrito | Pinole | San Pablo
Richmond | El Cerrito | Pinole | San Pablo map

Fatal Accidents: 13

Fatalities: 18

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 2.6

Distance: 5 miles

I-5 from Del Paso Rd. to Railyards Blvd.

Sacramento
Sacramento map

Fatal Accidents: 13

Fatalities: 16

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 2.6

Distance: 4.9 miles

I-215 from Exit 44B to Exit 39

Colton | San Bernardino
Colton | San Bernardino map

Fatal Accidents: 13

Fatalities: 13

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 2.7

Distance: 4.7 miles

SR-74 Between Melba Avenue and 3rd St.

Menifee
Menifee map

Fatal Accidents: 11

Fatalities: 12

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 2.7

Distance: 4.1 miles

I-605 from Exit 5B to Firestone Blvd.

Norwalk | Cerritos
Norwalk | Cerritos map

Fatal Accidents: 11

Fatalities: 12

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 2.6

Distance: 4.3 miles

I-280 from Meridian Ave. to Wilshire Blvd.

San Jose
San Jose map

Fatal Accidents: 11

Fatalities: 12

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 2.5

Distance: 4.3 miles

Bear Valley Rd. Between Navajo Rd. and Tamarski Rd.

Apple Valley | Hesperia
Apple Valley | Hesperia map

Fatal Accidents: 10

Fatalities: 13

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 2.1

Distance: 4.7 miles

SR-22 from Exit 10 to Exit 5

Garden Grove
Garden Grove map

Fatal Accidents: 10

Fatalities: 13

Fatal Accidents Per Mile: 2

Distance: 5 miles

Deadliest Roads in California by Metro

California is home to some of the most recognizable metropolitan areas in the country. MoneyGeek broke down the deadliest roads in each of the state’s largest metros — Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego — to compare fatal accidents in each.

Los Angeles Metro

Approximately 13,214,799 people live in the Los Angeles metro area. It's one of the most population-dense metros in the country and was ranked as the fourth-most congested urban area in the United States in the 2021 Urban Mobility report. Given the size of this metropolitan area, it’s surprising that its deadliest road stretches are only the state’s seventh, 10th and 13th most dangerous.

The table below shows the number of fatal accidents recorded for each route found in the Los Angeles Metro.

Los Angeles Metro’s Deadliest Roads
Road Ranking
Route Description
Cities
Fatal Accidents

7

I-605 from Exit 5B to Firestone Blvd.

Norwalk | Cerritos

11

10

SR-22 from Exit 10 to Exit 5

Garden Grove

10

13

I-5 from Exit 111 to 116

Anaheim | Fullerton | Buena Park

10

San Francisco Metro

As of 2019, the total population of the San Francisco metro area was 4,731,803. This metro area is tied with Los Angeles as the fourth-most congested urban area in the United States. Unlike the Los Angeles metro, the San Francisco metro contains two of the state’s three most dangerous roads for fatal accidents.

The table below breaks down the stretches and cities with the three highest numbers of fatal accidents in the San Francisco Metro.

San Francisco Metro’s Deadliest Roads
Road Ranking
Route Description
Cities
Fatal Accidents

2

I-80 Between Exit 14A and Exit 8A

Berkeley | Oakland | Emeryville | Albany

15

3

I-80 from Exit 15 to Exit 21

Richmond | El Cerrito | Pinole | San Pablo

13

33

I-880 from Exit 31 to Exit 36

Oakland | San Leandro

9

San Diego Metro

As of 2019, 3,338,330 people lived in the San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad metro area. The table below shows the cities and the total number of fatal accidents in the three deadliest stretches of road in the San Diego Metro.

San Diego Metro’s Deadliest Roads
Road Ranking
Route Description
Cities
Fatal Accidents

12

I-15 from Exit 13 (Miramar Way) to Exit 17

San Diego

10

17

I-5 from Exit 2 to Exit 7B

San Diego | Chula Vista

10

18

I-5 from Exit 17 A to Exit 11A

San Diego | National City

10

Drunk Driving Involved in 27% of Fatal Accidents

Around 27% of the total number of fatal accidents in California involved drunk driving. That means that drunk driving contributed to 2,802 of the 10,370 deadly crashes in the state.

Even a small amount of alcohol can affect your driving abilities and put you and others at harm. California laws consider a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% as legally intoxicated — but even a 0.02% BAC can cause visual impairment and make driving dangerous.

Even if you aren’t involved in a fatal accident, the costs of drunk driving can be extensive and long-lasting. It could result in license suspension, restricted driving privileges, increased insurance rates and possible jail time.

Additionally, California requires SR-22 insurance for drivers with a DUI. This type of coverage is significantly more expensive than other insurance policies.

Speeding Is a Factor in 28% of Fatal Crashes

Speeding is among the factors that contributed to fatal crashes from 2017 to 2019 in California, with a total of 2,923 incidents. This makes up 28% of the total deadly accidents in the state — outnumbering even drunk driving-related deaths.

There are many dangers to speeding. Going beyond speed limits can cause you to lose control of your car, making it harder to stop immediately if necessary. It also increases the chance of fatal crashes and severe injuries.

Speeding is also costly — particularly in California. While the base price of a ticket in California is fairly low, the state has multiple add-on fees that can raise costs by hundreds of dollars. Case in point — the average red-light ticket in the state is $490 — nearly three times the national average.

Distracted Driving Contributed to 4% of Fatal Accidents

During the three-year period surveyed, California recorded 447 fatal accidents involving distracted driving. That’s 4% of the total number of deadly crashes in the state.

Among all states, California ranked as the 47th-worst state for distracted driving. Based on MoneyGeek’s analysis, California is better than 92% of states for distracted driving.

November Had More Fatal Accidents Than Any Other Month

The state saw the highest number of fatal accidents in November compared to any other month. There were 951 deadly crashes recorded during the month, which is 9.2% of the total. Congestion on California roads due to Halloween and Thanksgiving-related travel likely contributes to the fatal accidents in this month.

September and October had the second and third highest numbers of fatal accidents.

Average Fatal Accidents by Month: 2017–2019
Month
Fatal Accidents
Drunk Driving Related
Distracted Driving Related
Winter Conditions
Speeding Related
% of Total

January

864

213

34

6

221

8.2%

February

740

190

34

3

206

7.2%

March

822

228

38

4

259

7.9%

April

787

205

35

0

233

7.6%

May

860

256

23

0

253

8.3%

June

877

255

30

0

249

8.5%

July

884

284

38

0

263

8.7%

August

892

227

36

0

245

8.6%

September

911

250

47

1

252

8.7%

October

893

222

50

0

235

8.7%

November

951

232

37

1

265

9.2%

December

889

240

45

3

242

8.5%

Driving Safely Protects You, Others and Your Wallet

Being a safe driver not only ensures your safety but also helps make California roadways safer. However, even the best driving habits can’t always prevent an accident.

Having auto insurance while driving on the roads of California is essential. If you are looking for maximum coverage, choosing a full coverage car insurance policy can financially protect you and your loved ones after a crash.

The average cost of full coverage car insurance in California is $1,429 per year. Actual prices can vary dramatically depending on where you live in the state. For instance, the average annual rate for auto insurance in Glendale is $2,283. Meanwhile, car insurance in Chula Vista costs an average of $1,205 per year. That is a difference of $1,078 per year. The average cost of auto insurance in Los Angeles — the city with the largest population in the state — is $1,916 annually.

These rates are only averages. Car insurance premium rates depending on individualized factors, including your age and driving history. To find the best and cheapest auto insurance company, shop around and compare quotes from multiple providers.

Fatal Accidents and Most Dangerous Roads: County Breakdown

The top five counties with the most fatal accidents in California had a total of 5,017 recorded incidents from 2017–2019. That means around 47% of the 10,370 recorded fatal crashes in the state happened in these counties.

Los Angeles County — the largest county in the country — had the most fatal accidents in the state. Interestingly, the county didn't contain many of the segments of road that had the most fatal accidents but still had the most deadly crashes overall.

There were 2,047 fatal crashes in Los Angeles County from 2017 to 2019. I-5 had the most deadly accidents in the county — speeding (648) and drunk driving (450) were the most common contributing factors.

Fatal Accidents and Contributing Factors By County: 2017–2019
County
Fatalities
Fatal Accidents
Drunk Driving Related
Distracted Driving Related
Speeding Related
Most Deadly Road (Fatal Accidents)

Los Angeles

2169

2047

450

76

648

I-5 (44)

San Bernardino

986

897

228

44

267

I-15 (102)

Riverside

895

827

260

28

222

I-10 (58)

San Diego

755

710

176

30

209

I-5 (52)

Orange

578

536

147

20

164

I-5 (32)

Sacramento

483

448

115

24

120

I-5 (32)

Kern

492

439

130

23

110

I-5 (36)

Fresno

414

367

98

13

99

SR-180 (22)

Santa Clara

360

344

82

20

103

US-101 (38)

San Joaquin

347

316

78

11

101

I-5 (33)

Alameda

277

260

61

12

91

I-880 (27)

Stanislaus

231

211

63

11

55

SR-99 (20)

Contra Costa

220

201

61

8

55

SR-4 (25)

Tulare

226

199

67

6

38

SR-99 (15)

Merced

179

157

45

3

36

SR-152 (25)

Ventura

154

140

51

8

42

SR-126 (11)

Monterey

139

129

47

11

30

US-101 (25)

Solano

131

123

39

7

25

I-80 (27)

Sonoma

118

114

41

6

32

US-101 (19)

Butte

109

101

30

4

22

SR-99 (18)

San Luis Obispo

108

100

38

4

27

US-101 (23)

Santa Barbara

114

96

25

2

24

US-101 (24)

Shasta

96

90

30

3

21

SR-273 (11)

San Mateo

92

86

16

3

27

US-101 (10)

San Francisco

91

86

6

4

19

US-101 (8)

Imperial

93

83

21

6

19

I-8 (20)

Mendocino

91

80

26

2

22

US-101 (30)

Madera

101

80

21

3

15

SR-41 (12)

El Dorado

87

79

19

1

33

US-50 (19)

Placer

81

78

23

3

23

I-80 (16)

Humboldt

87

74

31

1

15

US-101 (25)

Yolo

79

69

15

6

18

I-80 (9)

Sutter

76

61

18

4

15

SR-99 (24)

Santa Cruz

61

58

17

4

15

SR-1 (11)

Kings

63

51

20

2

10

SR-41 (13)

Tehama

55

48

18

5

10

I-5 (12)

Marin

48

47

15

1

17

US-101 (16)

Napa

47

45

13

3

9

SR-29 (14)

Yuba

48

43

13

3

10

SR-70 (8)

Calaveras

45

41

16

1

9

SR-4 (8)

Nevada

44

40

13

2

11

SR-20 (11)

Lake

42

39

11

4

7

SR-20 (13)

Siskiyou

42

38

13

1

13

I-5 (10)

Tuolumne

36

34

14

1

6

SR-120 (11)

Amador

39

33

13

2

6

SR-88 (13)

San Benito

31

30

12

2

8

SR-25 (6)

Colusa

32

26

5

1

5

I-5 (9)

Del Norte

27

23

6

1

8

US-199 (9)

Lassen

24

22

4

3

4

US-395 (8)

Trinity

22

21

8

0

4

SR-299 (7)

Glenn

25

20

6

2

3

I-5 (9)

Inyo

23

18

2

0

2

US-395 (7)

Mono

23

16

6

2

4

US-395 (11)

Mariposa

15

14

8

0

2

SR-140 (6)

Plumas

15

13

7

0

5

SR-70 (5)

Modoc

8

8

0

0

0

Cr-91 (2)

Sierra

7

7

0

0

6

SR-89 (4)

Alpine

7

7

4

0

2

SR-88 (3)

Methodology

MoneyGeek analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS (fatal accident reporting system) database using fatality data from 2017, 2018 and 2019. Currently, 2019 is the latest data available in the system.

About the Author


expert-profile

Doug Milnes is the head of marketing and communications at MoneyGeek. He has spent more than a decade in corporate finance performing valuations for Duff and Phelps and financial planning and analysis for various companies including OpenTable. He holds a master’s degree in Predictive Analytics (Data Science) from Northwestern University and is a CFA charter holder. Doug geeks out on building financial and predictive models and using data to make informed decisions.


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