Welcome to the California Office of Traffic safety
Governor Schwarzenegger

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California Traffic Safety Score Card


(Revised Dec. 2012)

In 2011, California’s traffic fatalities increased 2.6 percent (2,720 vs. 2,791) – still one of the lowest levels since the federal government began recording traffic fatalities in 1975. **

California 2010 Mileage Death Rate (MDR) – fatalities per 100 million miles traveled is 0.84 and marks the second time California has been below 1.0. California’s rate is much better than the national 1.11 MDR. **

Alcohol-Impaired Driving


(Revised Feb. 2013)

Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (fatalities in crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider (operator) with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or greater) matches our historic low of 774 in 2010 and 2011. The 774 figure is the lowest DUI death total ever. **

California’s alcohol-impaired driving fatality rate dropped from 0.28 in 2009 to 0.25 in 2010. California’s rate is much better than the national average of 0.34. Of the five largest states in terms of total traffic fatalities, (CA,FL, TX, PA, AND NC), California has the best rate.**

As a percent of total fatalities, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities decreased from 29 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2011. This number has remained virtually unchanged in the past five years. California is better than the national average of 31 percent. **

In 2010, the 21-24 age group had the highest percentage of drivers in fatal crashes with BAC levels of 0.08 or higher – 30 percent (down from 33 percent in 2009). **

DUI arrests dropped in 2011 to 180,212 as compared to 195,879 in 2010. Note: the 2011 DUI arrest figure represents the lowest DUI arrests since 2002. (DMV)

California’s statewide DUI conviction rate for 2009 is 77 percent. (2012 Annual Report of the California DUI Management Information System)

California far and away leads the nation in the number of sobriety checkpoints conducted annually (2,000+). A statewide survey of California drivers in 2012 showed overwhelmingly support of sobriety checkpoints, by a rate of almost 90 percent.

Distracted Driving

(Revised Sept. 2013)

The third annual (2012) “Statewide Observational Survey of Cell Phone Use by Drivers” in California showed that 7.4 percent of drivers were using cell phones at any given daylight time, down from 10.8 in 2011, but more in line with the 7.3 seen in 2010.

Hand-held cell phone convictions decreased 7.6 percent from 460,487 in 2011 to 425,041 in 2012. 

Texting convictions increased 42 percent from 14,866 in 2011 to 21,059 in 2012. (DMV)

  • California's 2012 annual “Statewide Traffic Safety Survey” showed that drivers ranked cell phone talking and texting as the biggest safety problems on the road. Not surprisingly, cell phone talking and texting were ranked highest by 80 percent of drivers as the most serious distractions on the road. Other survey findings include:

    Cell phone talking and texting combined were cited by 35.6 percent of respondents as being the biggest safety problems, down from 38.8 percent in 2011, but higher than the 18.3 percent in 2010.

    In two new questions this year, 51 percent of drivers thought that it was very likely or somewhat likely for someone to get a ticket for hand-held cell use or texting, and nearly 42 percent correctly chose $159 as the minimum ticket cost for cell phone use. Twenty-five percent thought it was lower and 33 percent picked a higher cost.
  • Sixty percent say that they have been hit or nearly hit by someone talking or texting on a cell phone, while nearly 45 percent admit to making a driving mistake while talking on a cell phone.
  • The percentage of drivers talking “regularly” or “sometimes” on a hand-held cell while driving ranged from 7.7 percent of the 70-or-older drivers to 31.1 percent of the 25 to 34-year-old drivers.
  • While a larger proportion of male drivers than female drivers said they “regularly” or “sometimes” talked on a hand-held cell while driving (26.6 percent of males versus 17.9 percent of females) or texted (17.7 percent of males versus 14.2 percent of females), all drivers believe that women talk or text more (42.3 percent) than men (7.8 percent).
  • Nearly 68 percent of Southern Californians considered cell phone talking and texting as the biggest problem on the road, compared to 48 percent in Central California and 34 percent in Northern California. Bad road surfaces are considered bigger in the North (20.4 percent) and Central (19.5 percent) than in the South (12.5 percent).
  • Southern Californians text more often (19.3 percent “regularly” or “sometimes”) than Central (12.2 percent) or Northern (14.6 percent) California drivers.
  • When given a choice of several different options for how much they thought a hand-held cell or texting ticket cost, older drivers thought it was higher than it really is while younger drivers thought it was lower.

Drug-Impaired Driving

(Revised Sept. 2013)

In 2012, California became the first state in the nation to conduct a “Statewide Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers.” The survey results showed 14 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs that can impair driving, while 7.3 percent of drivers tested positive for alcohol. Of the drugs, marijuana was most prevalent, at 7.4 percent, slightly more than alcohol. Over 1,300 drivers voluntarily agreed to provide breath and/or saliva samples at roadside locations set up in nine California cities. The samples were collected between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, the peak times of impaired driving. Breath samples were examined for alcohol, while saliva samples were tested for THC (the active ingredient in marijuana), major illegal drugs, plus prescription and over-the-counter medications that can adversely affect driving.

Based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30.4 percent of all drivers who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in California in 2011 tested positive for legal and/or illegal drugs, a percentage that has been increasing since 2006. Marijuana was by far the most common drug found in drivers who tested positive for drugs - 25.3 percent of those drivers who tested positive for drugs.

Results from the 2012 annual “Statewide Traffic Safety Survey” found that over 95 percent of surveyed California drivers perceive as a problem the emergence of driving under the influence of legal and illegal drugs, with 71.5 percent seeing it as a “very big problem."

The National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers”, conducted by NHTSA in 2007, found that 16.3 percent of nighttime drivers were drug-positive, with marijuana (THC) at (8.6 percent) being the most commonly detected drug.

In 2011, 13% percent of fatally injured drivers in California were NOT tested for the presence of drugs. Eleven states had a lower percent of fatally injured drivers not tested for the presence of drugs-  Alaska 10%, Connecticut 3%, Hawaii 3%, Maryland 4%, Massachusetts 6%, New Jersey 10%, New Mexico 1%, New York 2%, South Carolina 10% Washington 4%, and West Virginia 4%.**

In 2010, 80 percent of fatally injured drivers were tested with known results. Only thirteen states were better – New Mexico (99%), North Dakota (93%), West Virginia (91%), Washington (88%), Nevada (87%), New Jersey (87%), Ohio (84%), Montana (84%), Rhode Island (83%), Alaska (83%), Hawaii (82%), Maryland (82%), and Minnesota (81%). **

Occupant Protection

(Revised Nov. 2012)

California’s observed seat belt usage rate dropped from 96.6 percent in 2011 to 95.5 percent in 2012. California's slight decline in seat belt use in 2012 may be attributed to a new survey methodology mandated by NHTSA. California’s 95.5 percent seat belt use rate is much higher than the national average of 86 percent. (CSU Fresno)

In California, the percent of restrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities (all seat positions) decreased from 67 percent in 2010 to 64 percent in 2011. California is much better than the national average of 46 percent and no state is better than California. NHTSA estimates that about half or 260 of the 521 known unrestrained fatalities would be alive today had they simply buckled up. **

Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities (age 0-8) decreased 53.9 percent from 65 in 2009 to 30 in 2010.The 2012 “Statewide Observational Survey Restraint Usage for Infants and Children” found that 91.6 percent of infants and children (up to 8 years old) were properly restrained while riding in passenger vehicles. Visual observations were made at 140 different locations selected on the basis of geography and population, to be consistent with the NHTSA seat belt survey methodology conducted for adults. (CSU Fresno)

Teen Safety

(Revised Mar. 2013)

Seat belt use for teens jumped over two percentage points in the past two years, from 94 percent in 2010 to 96.1 percent in 2012. The teen use rate nearly matches the usage rate for all vehicle occupants in the state, which stands at 95.5 percent. The new teen rate is a significant increase from the 88.9 percent observed just four years ago.

Drivers age 20 or younger involved in fatal crashes dropped 22.1 percent from 431 in 2009 to 336 in 2010.

In 2010, the percent of unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant “teenaged” fatalities was 41 percent. Of the five largest states in terms of total traffic fatalities, (CA, FL, TX, PA, and NC), California has the best rate. Since restraints are about 50 percent effective in preventing a fatality, NHTSA estimates that half or 25 of the 50 teens would be alive today had they simply buckled up.

Teen fatalities (age 16-19) increased slightly from 181 in 2010 to 187 in 2011. Since 2006, teen motor deaths have dropped 57 percent. **

Teen driver fatalities (age 16-19) increased from 75 in 2010 to 77 in 2011 – but down significantly from the 209 teens killed in 2006.  Males make up 71 percent of teen driver fatalities. Since 2006, teen driver fatalities have dropped 64 percent. **

Motorcycle Safety

(Revised Mar. 2013)

Motorcycle fatalities increased 15 percent from 352 in 2010 to 414 in 2011.**

Total motorcycle registrations peaked at 824,224 in 2008, then decreased two percent in two years to a low of 808,913 in 2010 before increasing one percent to 818,650 in 2011. (DMV)

In 2010, 79 percent of motorcycle operators involved in fatal collisions were at fault and 57 percent of motorcycle operators involved in injury collisions were at fault.*

The motorcycle fatality rate per 100,000 motorcycle registrations was 51 in 2011, up from 49 in 2009 and 44 in 2010.  California has made significant progress in the past few years as the motorcycle fatality rate averaged 65 between 1999-2008. (DMV**)

The percentage of motorcycle operators killed with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 or greater decreased  from 26 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2011.**

The percentage of motorcycle operators killed that were improperly licensed increased from 33 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2011.**

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

(Revised Mar. 2013)

Pedestrian fatalities increased 3.9 percent from 601 in 2010 to 625 in 2011.**

Pedestrian fatalities age 65 and older increased slightly from 150 in 2010 to 151 in 2011.**

Bicycle fatalities increased 13.2 percent from 99 in 2010 to 114 in 2011. **

Previous Years


*Data Source – Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS)
**Data Source – Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)