Facts and statistics on driving records in each state vary from year to year, but overall, U.S. roads can be dangerous for drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 5,250,837 police-reported car accidents in 2020. This number was down from 6.7 million in 2019, but the global pandemic and nationwide shutdown make it impossible to determine the exact cause of this decrease. Historically, we have seen car accident numbers tend to increase over time.

Chart showing an overall increase in car accidents with a recent short drop off in the year 2020

Over the course of 11 years, only two other years experienced a decrease in total car accidents – 2011 and 2017 – but no change was as drastic as in 2020. The difference between crashes in 2019 and 2020 was over 1.5 million, which is a considerable amount likely attributed to COVID-19.
The U.S. as a whole reports millions of car accidents every year, but which state reports the most?

State Statistics

It makes sense that states with higher populations will likely report more accidents. More people means more vehicles on the road, which increases the potential for crashes. The most populated U.S. states are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.
Population data is closely related to accident fatality data when it comes to the very top of the list. The three states with the most traffic-related fatalities in 2019 are as follows:

  1. Texas, 3,615
  2. California, 3,606
  3. Florida, 3,183

In 2020, California rose to the top of this list, but these three states are consistently ranked as having the most car accident fatalities. As mentioned, population size affects crash rankings, which explains why these states have higher numbers. However, the types of vehicles on the roads and the type of commute are also factors.

Californians, for example, often have long distances to travel for their commutes and must do so on busier interstates and highways. Drivers in California also have a number of other factors to contend with on the roads – tourists, wildlife, natural disasters, and various weather events.
Urban areas often have higher accident rates, while rural driving and interstate driving have a higher likelihood of severe injury or death. California’s size and varied community makeup mean that there is a multitude of all types of driving within the state.

Causes of Car Accidents

While the number of overall car accidents decreased significantly from 2019 to 2020, the number of fatal accidents increased. The NHTSA claims that speeding, alcohol impairment, and not using seatbelts were the major causes of this increase.


Riverside County alone had 247 fatal and injury-causing crashes caused by speeding in 2020 and 338 in 2019. Numbers like these underscore the importance of safe driving and proper precautions like wearing a safety belt and following the rules of the road.

Driving Under the Influence

Drunk driving crashes cause one death every 39 minutes. NHTSA data for 2021 reveals that 13,384 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents that year. Driving under the influence is a criminal act in California, as it is in all U.S. states. Over 27,000 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes in 2019, with nearly 1,700 of those occurring in Riverside County. All of these deaths were preventable.

California has one of the highest rates of traffic fatalities related to driving under the influence, with 1,069 deaths equaling 30%. Texas had a total of 1,439 deaths which accounted for 40% of traffic fatalities. Surprisingly, Montana ranks higher than both of these states at 43%, despite only having a total of 79 alcohol-related traffic deaths.

Distracted Driving and Negligence

Aside from fatal accidents, there are also an alarming number of injury-causing accidents in California. In 2019, over 260,000 people were injured in traffic accidents, according to the California Highway Patrol. The most common causes of accidents include distracted driving and other types of traffic violations like speeding, improper lane changes, and failure to yield.

The Accident Network Law Group offers free consultations for anyone injured in a California traffic accident. We understand that accident victims need a lawyer who is a compassionate listener and an aggressive advocate. Costa Mesa area residents call (714) 844-1010, and Riverside locals call (951) 554-1010 to schedule your free consultation.