San Diego

I-5 in San Diego County named one of California's deadliest roads

Fatal car crashes are rising across San Diego and California, data collected by ConsumerAffairs shows

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The Interstate-5 in San Diego County has been named California's third-top deadliest roadway and is seeing a postpandemic spike, according to a new report from ConsumerAffairs.

ConsumerAffairs created this report on where traffic deaths occur and the factors contributing to them by investigating data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) in California from 2018 to 2022.

Despite California's population decline from 2018 to 2022, deaths from car crashes rose in 2022, 17% up from prepandemic levels in 2018, according to ConsumerAffairs.

Roadways became a lot less congested during the pandemic, which ushered in speeding, reckless driving and thus, more deadly car crashes, according to traffic safety experts ConsumerAffairs spoke with.

Estimates for 2023 show car crash fatalities declining in California alongside its population, but those fatalities are still above prepandemic levels, clocking in at 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2023 compared with 9.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2018.

I-5 fatalities in San Diego County in 2022 vs. 2018

  • 2018: 19 fatalities
  • 2022: 21 fatalities

Of those 21 fatalities on I-5 in 2022, seven of them were related to speeding while two were related to drinking. More were identified as related to speeding than drinking. The other 12 were unspecified.

I-5 fatalities in San Diego County in 2022

  • Fatalities: 21
  • Fatalities with speeding: 7
  • Fatalities with drinking: 2

I-5 was California's deadliest road in 2022

I-5 runs through all of California, and was the state's deadliest road in 2022 at 128 deaths. Although that number is down from 150 in 2018, some areas saw their fatalities grow as time went on.

California's worst cities and counties for deadly car crashes

Car crash fatalities are rising in California compared to before the pandemic. Of California's 10-most populous counties, eight of them are seeing car crash fatalities rise above prepandemic levels.

Clocking in as the most dangerous county is San Bernardino County, with more than 20 car crash deaths per 100,000 people in 2022. Following that is Fresno with almost 20 deaths per 100,000 people, and Riverside with almost 14 deaths per 100,000, according to ConsumerAffairs.

Time and California's deadly car crashes

Researchers also scraped through 2022's data to find the most common hour of the day for deadly car crashes, which were between 6 p.m. and midnight, according to the report.

Fatalities occurred less frequently from 6 a.m. to noon, making up about 16 % of deaths.

During the week, fatal crashes were fairly evenly distributed but increase on the weekends, with Saturday being the most deadly day for driving.

Out of the year, August and October had the most car crash deaths in 2022. More people are vacationing and younger drivers are not in school, ConsumerAffairs said. During October, visibility issues come up, as well as slick surfaces, according to the report.

What is Caltrans doing about deadly car crashes?

NBC 7 reached out to Caltrans, which manages much of California's various modes of transportation. The agency said it is working on a variety of projects on I-5 in San Diego County aimed at reducing crashes. Some of those projects include making roads smoother, building new lanes with traffic signals for safer freeway entrances and exits and to reduce traffic.

"On I-5 in San Diego County, Caltrans is working on rehabilitation projects that will replace worn, often rough pavement with new, smoother pavement. These projects will also include updating lighting and signage. The new or reconstructed lanes will help travelers safely enter and exit the freeway with traffic signals to accommodate current traffic volumes. This and other improvements are meant to reduce congestion that could cause incidents. Caltrans will continue to innovate and implement projects that emphasize safety for all Californians."

Caltrans also sent the following statement to NBC 7 in response to the report:

"Safety is Caltrans' top priority, and we are committed to meeting our Vision Zero goal – eliminating all fatalities and serious injuries on California public roads by the year 2050. While a number of factors go into incidents on California roadways, we are investing a record amount of funds – $1 billion over the next four years – to deliver safety improvements through our highway maintenance projects to address the top five challenge areas: Speeding and aggressive driving; lane departure crashes; impaired driving; intersection crashes; and pedestrian and bike safety. We have implemented work zone protection on projects, evaluating all work activities during both the design and construction phases to incorporate necessary measures. We’ve also introduced innovative devices such as Automated Flagger Assisted Devices, Mobile Barrier Systems, Movable Barrier Systems, High Tension Cable Barrier, and piloting Orange Striping in Construction Zones and Advanced Warning Detection Systems for Wrong Way Drivers to better protect the traveling public and workers on the roads."

How to drive safely on California's roads

Traffic safety experts with the California government's "Go Safely" campaign lays out these these tips for driving more safely.

  • Stick to the speed limit signs
  • Slow your vehicle at intersections (which usually have more drivers)
  • Watch for pedestrians at crosswalks and unmarked corners. Always be ready to stop and allow pedestrians to cross
  • Be extra cautious when driving in less-than-ideal driving conditions like anytime it's dark, foggy or rainy
  • Give bicyclists plenty of space when passing. California law actually requires drivers to change lanes when possible to pass bicyclists
  • If there's not enough space when passing a bicyclist, be patient and wait until it's safe to pass
  • Keep your phone on silent or "Do Not Disturb" mode. The iPhone has a Driving Focus Feature which can make your phone silent every time the car is moving. It even has the ability to send an automated message to those trying to contact you letting them know you are driving and will respond to them when it is safe.
  • Do not drive when impaired with any substance, as it's illegal. Create a game plan ahead of consuming alcohol or participating in any behavior that might impair your ability to drive, like consuming cannabis, prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications. Get a designated sober driver, use ride-share services or public transit
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