Over the last decade, automakers have improved car safety with more airbags, rear-view cameras, and stability control systems. In California, the California Highway Patrol has ramped up their efforts, reminding the public about the dangers of drinking and driving, texting while behind the wheel and handing out seatbelt violation tickets.
Yet, the number of people dying while driving still remains high. Nationally, more than 40,000 people died in car crashes last year, according to the National Safety Council.
In the last decade, 868 people died on San Diego County freeways and highways, according to the latest data figures NBC 7 Investigates requested from the California Highway Patrol.
NBC 7 Investigates found the most deaths occurred on the most traveled freeway: Interstate 5 with 181 deaths.
To see a map showing all fatal accidents on local freeways since 2008, click here or look below.
Using the number of fatal crashes on each freeway since 2008, and the freeway’s length in miles, NBC 7 Investigates found State Route 163 had the highest number fatal crash rate per mile, followed by Interstate 805.
NBC 7 Investigates used a Federal Highway Administration formula that takes into account the number of fatal crashes reported in the last eight years, the average annual daily traffic (AADT) volume and the freeway’s length in miles to calculate each freeway's fatal crash rate for every 100-million miles traveled. (Our analysis did not include freeways that had less than six fatal crashes in the last eight years: State Routes 56, 75, 905, 188 and Highway 101)
Using the formula, State Route 79 had the highest fatal crash rate for every 100-million vehicle miles traveled on the freeway. This was based on the 24 fatal accidents reported since 2008, the freeway’s length of 106.7 miles and average annual traffic of 46,875 drivers.
State Route 76 had the second highest fatal crash rate for every 100-million vehicle miles traveled on the freeway. This was based on 74 fatal accidents since 2008 and an average 1.4-million drivers using the 52-mile stretch of State Route 76 each year.
NBC 7 Investigates reached out to the Federal Highway Administration to confirm our use of the formulas above and a spokesperson said the analysis was valid for these purposes but would be considered “relatively simple”, as the formulas do not take into consideration other roadway features including curves, speed limits or other characteristics that might have an influence on fatal crash rates.
“All crashes are as a result of somebody doing the wrong thing behind the wheel,” Officer Jake Sanchez with the California Highway Patrol said. “Whether that's speeding, whether that's texting or not paying attention to the road.”
To see where fatalities occurred on San Diego County’s freeways, click here.
Out of the 868 people killed in the last decade on San Diego County’s freeways, 345 were killed as a result of a crash involving a driver being under the influence. 29 people were killed in DUI crashes in 2017.
Sanchez said high speed is the biggest factor in a fatal collision and can be associated with about 90-percent of crashes here locally.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said for every five mile-per-hour increase on the nation’s highways, there is an 8-percent increase in highway fatalities.
Six states have a top speed of 80 miles per hour. In Texas, the maximum speed is 85. In California, the maximum speed limit on most highways is 65 miles per hour.
“The only stretch in the county that you hit 70 is up on the 15, North Escondido. The rest of it is 65,” said Sanchez.