Data Tracker

A deadly effect of the booming economy – fatal car wrecks at 20-year high

More people died in Sacramento car crashes in 2016 than during any of the last 20 years, according to new government figures.

Vehicle crashes killed almost 260 people in the four-county area during 2016, up 22 percent from 2015.

The trend is largely an unfortunate side effect of the improving economy, experts say. More people at work means more cars on the road, which means more car accidents.

The last time this many people died in Sacramento vehicle crashes was during 2005, when the economy was booming and unemployment, like today, hovered around 4 percent.

The same jump occurred statewide, with 3,623 driving fatalities in 2016, up from 3,387 the prior year.

The rate of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also increased statewide, rising to its highest level since 2008.

In the Sacramento region, about 35 percent of driving deaths took place on state or federal highways. More than a quarter of all fatal wrecks involved alcohol.

The worst accident in the region during 2016 took place in April, when a women with a recent arrest for alleged drunken driving tried to pass a car on Highway 12 in southern Sacramento County and was broadsided by a pickup truck. Five people – ages 2, 3, 17, 19 and 21 – died in the wreck.

Sacramento 2016 fatal car accidents

Phillip Reese is The Bee’s data specialist and teaches at Sacramento State. Reach him at 916-321-1137 or 916-278-5420.