Fatalities from Crashes

How many people die on Bay Area roads?

Fatalities from Crashes

Fatalities from crashes refers to deaths as a result of injuries sustained in collisions. The California Highway Patrol includes deaths within 30 days of the collision that are a result of injuries sustained as part of this metric. Fatalities are measured as an aggregate number (total fatalities) and as a rate (fatalities per 100,000 residents and fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled).

In 2012, over 28,000 traffic crashes resulting in fatalities, major injuries or minor injuries were reported on Bay Area roadways. Fortunately, over 90 percent of those crashes resulted in only minor injuries. However, hundreds of lives are tragically lost every year on our region’s highways, arterials and local streets. While vehicle technology advancements should help to reduce the number of fatal collisions in the coming years, enhancing the safety of our existing roads to save more lives remains a key transportation priority.

Regional Performance
Traffic fatalities have declined markedly over the past two decades, thanks to new vehicle safety technologies.

Bay Area roads are significantly safer than they were just one decade ago. Looking back even further, fatalities have declined by 38 percent since 1991 even as the region has grown in population. While there has been a slight uptick in fatalities since 2010 – likely a result of increased driving as our region’s economy has improved – the overall long-term trend reflects the safety benefits from improved vehicle safety technologies such as airbags.

While roads have become increasingly safe for motorists, approximately half of all traffic fatalities in recent years have been vulnerable road users – pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. Technological improvements have managed to reduce overall fatalities, but vulnerable travelers continue to experience fatality levels quite similar to 1990s levels.

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Local Focus
San Francisco stands out as an outlier – with one of the lowest fatality rates per capita but one of the highest fatality rates per mile driven.

While Sonoma County unfortunately has the region’s highest fatality rates on both a per-mile and per-capita basis, fatality rate statistics in San Francisco are more complicated. Per mile driven, San Francisco ties Sonoma for the most dangerous roads. But at the same time, on a per-capita basis, San Francisco had the lowest fatality rate of any county in the region in 2012. This is reflective of the shorter travel distances and slower speeds in the city compared to much of the region. For the average resident of San Francisco, the risk of being killed in a crash is actually quite low in any given year compared to the rest of the region.

Fatalities from Crashes (2001 to 2012)


Zoom in to see more details, including individual fatality reports. Select a report on the map for more information.

National Context
In contrast to the Bay Area’s relatively safe roads, Sunbelt metro areas top the list for highest fatality rates.

Atlanta, Miami, Houston and Dallas top the list of major U.S. metro areas with the highest fatality rates per resident. These metro areas have nearly double the fatality rate of the safest major metro areas – Washington, D.C. and New York City. The stark difference between the Sunbelt metros and the nation’s two most transit-oriented metros is reflective of the former group’s higher travel speeds, greater miles traveled, and higher auto mode share. The Bay Area ranks favorably with the third-safest roads among major metro areas, with just under five traffic fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2012.


California Highway Patrol: Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (2001-2012) – via SafeTREC Transportation Injury Mapping System

National Highway Safety Administration: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (2012)

California Department of Transportation: California Public Road Data/Highway Performance Monitoring System (2001-2012)

California Department of Finance: Population and Housing Estimates

Form E-8 - Historical Population and Housing Estimates (2001-2010)

Form E-5 - Population and Housing Estimates (2011-2013)

U.S. Census Bureau: American Community Survey

Population Statistics

Image: Flickr (Creative Commons license), Photographer: Ann Fisher, https://www.flickr.com/photos/yooperann/15783264477

Methodology Notes: 

The data is reported by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), which was accessed via SafeTREC’s Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS). The data was tabulated using provided categories specifying injury level, individuals involved, causes of collision, and location/jurisdiction of collision (for more: http://tims.berkeley.edu/help/files/switrs_codebook.doc). Fatalities were normalized over historic population data from the US Census and American Community Surveys and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) data from the Federal Highway Administration. For more regarding reporting procedures and injury classification, refer to the California Highway Patrol Manual (http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/stateCatalog/states/ca/docs/CA_CHP555_Manual_...).