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[Study] The Deadliest Highway Stretches in California

This map is interactive. You can zoom in and hover over any orange road segment to get information such as highway name, number of fatalities, fatalities per mile and road segment length.

In 2015 and 2016, there were over 6,500 fatal motor vehicle collisions in California – the second highest state total in the country as only Texas had more.  Nearly 39 percent of these fatal collisions occurred on an Interstate, U.S. or State Highway.

The California State Highway System is a sprawling, 16,662-mile-long network consisting of over 50,000 lane miles.  Where along this vast network do fatal collisions occur at a high rate?  Are certain sections of highway inherently dangerous for drivers?

With the help of data visualization firm 1Point21 Interactive, we analyzed all fatal highway collisions in 2015 and 2016 (the most current year available) to identify the deadliest stretches in California.

Study Insights

  • The top 15 stretches accounted for 160 fatal crashes and 172 fatalities.
  • These stretches averaged 1.48 fatal collisions per mile, compared to 0.15 for the entire highway network.
  • 10 of the 15 deadliest stretches are located in Southern California, while only 5 are located in Northern California.

The 15 Deadliest Stretches of Highway in California

You can quickly jump to the following sections of the study:

*The rank of the stretches is determined by fatal crashes per mile.

Deadliest Highways in California

The four deadliest highway segments – based on fatal crashes per mile –  are primarily comprised of smaller, local highways rather than the traffic-packed interstates that see hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day.

  • The deadliest highway stretch was a 3.51-mile segment of Sierra Highway in Canyon Country in the Santa Clarita Valley that accounted for 10 crashes and 11 fatalities.
  • Ranking second was a 3.70-mile stretch of State Route 74 in Hemet, CA (also known as Florida Avenue) that runs through the central hub of the small city. This busy street was the location of 8 crashes and 10 fatalities.
  • The third-most deadly segment was a 3.32-mile stretch of State Route 57 that runs through Anaheim’s Resort District and ends in bustling Santa Ana.
  • Fourth place went to a wide, 9.82-mile-long segment of Beach Boulevard, a heavily-traveled north-south arterial road that begins in Buena Park and runs through Westminster, ending just north of Huntington Beach.

Deadliest Stretches in Southern California

 

Rank Road Name County Fatal Crashes Fatalities Length (Miles) Fatal Crashes per Mile
1 Sierra Hwy Los Angeles 10 11 3.51 2.847
2 Florida Ave / Rte 74 Riverside 8 10 3.70 2.162
3 State Rte 57 / Orange Fwy Orange 7 7 3.32 2.107
4 State Rte 39  /  Beach Blvd Orange 19 19 9.82 1.934
5 Union Avenue Kern 9 9 6.00 1.499
6 I – 405 /  San Diego Fwy Los Angeles 6 7 5.76 1.042
7 I- 5 /  Golden State Fwy Los Angeles 28 28 28.12 0.996
8 Hst Rte 66 San Bernardino 6 6 6.33 0.948
9 State Rte 138 San Bernardino 11 13 11.65 0.944
10 State Rte 57 Los Angeles 9 9 9.85 0.913
11 State Rte 118  /  Ronald Reagan Fwy Los Angeles 9 10 10.24 0.879
12 I- 710  /  Long Beach Fwy Los Angeles 14 16 16.61 0.843
13 State Rte 1 / PCH Los Angeles 6 7 7.16 0.837
14 State Rte 55  /  Costa Mesa Fwy Orange 10 10 12.18 0.821
15 I – 10 /  San Bernardino Fwy San Bernardino 36 39 44.35 0.812
16 I- 10 /  Santa Monica Fwy Los Angeles 24 24 29.66 0.809
17 State Rte 86 Riverside 6 6 7.53 0.797
18 I- 8  /  Mission Valley Fwy San Diego 8 9 10.07 0.794
19 I- 110  /  Harbor Fwy Los Angeles 10 10 12.79 0.782
20 I- 605  /  San Gabriel River Fwy Los Angeles 19 21 24.35 0.780
21 State Rte 170  /  Hollywood Fwy Los Angeles 7 7 9.23 0.759
22 State Rte 60  /  Pomona Fwy Los Angeles 18 19 24.56 0.733
23 I- 105  / Century Fwy Los Angeles 6 6 8.37 0.716
24 State Rte 60  /  Pomona Fwy Riverside 6 6 8.58 0.699
25 State Rte 184 Kern 6 6 9.18 0.654
26 State Rte 74 Riverside 9 10 13.83 0.651
27 Hst Rte 66 San Bernardino 6 6 9.47 0.634
28 State Rte 19/  Rosemead Blvd Los Angeles 6 6 9.48 0.633
29 State Rte 78 San Diego 11 15 19.47 0.565
30 I- 15 San Bernardino 13 17 23.44 0.555
31 I- 215 Riverside / San Bernardino 18 19 31.95 0.546
32 Hwy 94  /  Campo Rd San Diego 7 7 13.35 0.524
33 State Rte 91 Riverside  /  Orange 15 15 32.05 0.468
34 State Rte 18 San Bernardino 6 7 13.25 0.453
35 State Rte 138 Los Angeles 7 9 15.83 0.442
36 State Rte 74 Riverside 6 6 13.86 0.433
37 State Rte 1  /  El Camino Real Santa Barbara /  Ventura 11 13 25.57 0.430
38 Bouquet Canyon Rd Los Angeles 6 8 15.09 0.398
39 I- 15  /  Avocado Hwy San Diego 8 9 24.04 0.333

The majority of deadly highway stretches were located in Southern California – 50 percent of the segments in the region were the site of at least 10 fatalities. When broken down by county, Los Angeles County has far and away the most dangerous segments, with 16 targeted highways, followed by Riverside County with 8 stretches.

Aside from the aforementioned top 4 ranking segments, a surprising addition is a 6-mile stretch of Union Avenue, a highway corridor in Bakersfield. With 9 crashes leading to 9 fatalities, it ranked fifth in Southern California, and sixth overall.

Other Notable Segments

  • A 5.76-mile segment of Interstate 405, largely considered the busiest freeway in the nation, was home to 6 crashes and 7 fatalities.
  • A long stretch of Interstate 5 running through LA was second in the region in crashes and fatalities, with 28 each. However, due to its length of roughly 28 miles, its fatal crash density did not rank as high as other, smaller highway segments.
  • A small, 6.33-mile stretch of Historic Route 66 in the Angeles National Forest south of Hesperia accounted for 6 crashes and 6 fatalities, ranking 8th in Southern California and 12th
  • A large stretch of Interstate 10 running through San Bernadino and beyond accumulated 36 crashes and 39 fatalities – the most on the list overall. However, because these occurred across a stretch of 44.35 miles, it ranked lower than shorter segments due to a lower fatal crash density.

Interestingly, San Diego County was not as high on the list as others, despite ranking second in population only to Los Angeles County. Their deadliest highway segment ranked 19th, a 10.07-mile stretch of Interstate 8 through the busy Mission Valley neighborhood – accounting for 8 crashes and 9 fatalities.

UPDATE: Check out our New Infographic! – Where are the Top 5 Deadliest Freeway Areas in Los Angeles?

Deadliest Stretches in Northern California

With only 18 stretches, Northern California had considerably less visibility than its southern counterparts. While Southern California has three segments with a fatal crash density above 2, Northern California has zero. Its deadliest highway segment was a portion of Interstate 880 through Milpitas with a fatal crash density of 1.87. Despite being only 3.21 miles long, this stretch was the location of 6 crashes, leading to 6 fatalities.

Rank Road Name County Fatal Crashes Fatalities Length (Miles) Fatal Crashes per Mile
1 I- 880  /  Nimitz Fwy Santa Clara 6 6 3.209 1.870
2 State Rte 183  /  Castroville Rd Monterey 7 9 4.678 1.497
3 State Rte 82  /  Monterey Hwy Santa Clara 7 8 4.682 1.495
4 State Hwy 99 /  S Sacramento Fwy Sacramento 15 17 14.114 1.063
5 I- 580  /  Macarthur Fwy Alameda 12 13 13.296 0.903
6 US Hwy 50 Sacramento 9 13 10.347 0.870
7 US Hwy 101 Mendocino 6 7 7.378 0.813
8 State Hwy 99 Stanislaus 18 18 22.463 0.801
9 State Rte 65 Tulare 10 12 12.977 0.771
10 I- 80 /  Eastshore Fwy Contra Costa 9 9 11.913 0.755
11 State Rte 4 San Joaquin 6 6 8.067 0.744
12 US Hwy 101  /  Bayshore Fwy San Mateo  / Santa Clara 26 28 37.237 0.698
13 US Hwy 101  /  S Valley Fwy Santa Clara 6 6 10.070 0.596
14 State Hwy 63 / Dinuba Blvd Tulare 9 9 15.330 0.587
15 State Rte 99 Tulare 9 10 15.432 0.583
16 US Hwy 101 /  el Camino Real Monterey 10 10 17.738 0.564
17 State Hwy 132 Stanislaus 8 8 19.409 0.412
18 US Hwy 101  / Redwood Fwy Humboldt 12 12 40.802 0.294

 

Other Notable Segments

 

  • A 4.68-mile segment of State Route 183 leading from Salinas to Castroville that was the site of 7 crashes and 9 fatalities.
  • A 37.24-mile stretch of US Highway 101 running through San Jose and ending in San Mateo that accounted for 26 crashes and 28 fatalities – the longest stretch in Northern California with the highest amount of crashes and fatalities.
  • A segment south of Sacramento accounted for 15 crashes and 17 fatalities across a 14.11-mile stretch of State Highway 99 – ranking 4th in Northern California.
  • A stretch of State Highway 99 through Modesto contained 18 crashes and 18 fatalities across 22.46 miles, ranking 8th in fatal crash density in Northern California.

San Francisco, one of the most densely populated cities and counties in the region, actually had zero deadly highway segments. The closest was a stretch of Interstate 580 across the bay that accounted for 12 crashes and 13 fatalities.

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