What Are the Most Dangerous State Routes in Fresno County?

What Are the Most Dangerous State Routes in Fresno County?

Over the years, Fresno has gained a reputation for affordability, red wine blends, farming, and gloomier weather than you’ll see elsewhere in California. What is less well-known is that Fresno also has some of California’s most deadly state highways. Especially during the early morning and late afternoon rush hour periods, traffic stacks up quickly and can prove a deadly challenge for even experienced drivers.

One of the highways running through Fresno County, State Route 99, was declared the most dangerous freeway in the United States in 2019. The road was known for its monotonous scenery, fewer-than-normal freeway lanes, and an unusually high speed limit of 70 miles per hour (mph). In today’s article, we look at State Route 99 and some of the other state highways in Fresno County. Do they still live up to the area’s reputation for dangerous roadways? Read on to find out.

How Many Car Accidents Occurred on California Highways from 2019 – June 8th, 2022?

Before we look specifically at Fresno County, we decided to analyze crash statistics across the state of California. For our research, we drew upon data collected by the Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS). To acquire their crash statistics, TIMS tracks collisions that are added to the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) by the California Highway Patrol. The TIMS database is updated daily, though there is a several week delay between data entry, processing, and tabulating crash figures.

In the chart below, we display the total number of documented accidents on California state highways from January 1st, 2019 through June 8th, 2022. Accidents that were not properly reported to the California Highway Patrol may not be included in this dataset.

Some takeaways:

  • The number of car crashes on state highways decreased in 2020, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, as people began using the roads more frequently in 2021, crashes increased by 1.19x.
  • The state is on track to see an additional 33,690 crashes throughout 2022, if the rate of approximately 1,123 crashes per week continues. Although it is incredibly unlikely that the final number of crashes corresponds exactly to the current weekly average accident figure, that would put the total number of state crashes for the year at 58,400.

How Many Vehicle Miles Were Travelled on California Highways from 2019 – June 8th, 2022?

In addition to recording the number of crashes that occurred on California state highways, TIMS also records the number of freeway miles travelled annually. The chart below shows the number of miles travelled from January 1st, 2019 through June 8th, 2022. One immediate takeaway is the significant decrease in the number of miles travelled during 2020, coinciding with the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What Are the Deadliest State Routes in Fresno?

Having established a baseline for the total number of accidents and the scale of travel across California for the past four years, we turn now to Fresno County in particular. For the purposes of our research, we graded each highway on the overall number of reported collisions, how many victims reported injuries on a route, and how many deaths occurred. Only the segments of state routes running directly through Fresno County are included, thus excluding some accidents that occurred within other counties.

Since some state routes have more up to date 2022 crash statistics than others in TIMS, we elected to use 2021 crash data. We made this decision because all data entries from 2021 are recorded and publicly available, thus reducing the chances of the dataset being mistakenly skewed by a lack of figures.

Notes: You may be wondering why we chose to rank State Route 168 above State Route 33, despite 4x as many fatalities occurring on the latter highway. We came to this decision because 9 of Highway 33’s deaths occurred in one multi-vehicle wreck. A 2013 Dodge veered out of control and struck a 2007 Ford travelling in the opposite direction head-on. The driver of the Dodge and all eight occupants of the Ford, which only had seats for five people, perished in the crash.

Analyzing Fresno’s Three Deadliest Routes in Terms of Crash Severity

Having categorized the state highways running through Fresno according to how safe or dangerous they are, we take a closer look at the three most deadly routes in the region. For the rest of our study, we specifically examine routes 41, 99, and 180. To start off, we displayed the overall number of crashes arranged by injury severity in the collision. Not surprisingly, State Route 99 leads all three freeways in both fatal and severe crashes. It also had the most collisions where at least one victim reported pain in the aftermath of the wreck.

 

Exploring the Primary Crash Factors That Cause Fresno Country Wrecks

A primary crash factor (PCF) is an unsafe practice or behavior that has a high chance of leading to a collision. PCFs range from speeding to making an unsafe lane change. Using TIMS data, we display the number of crashes caused by each PCF in the table below.

Our notes:

  • Although State Route 99 led all three routes in terms of both number of crashes and injured victims, State Route 180 had over 3x as many wrecks due to a recorded failure to observe a motor vehicle’s right of way as route 99 and route 41 combined
  • Unsafe speed was a contributing factor in more than half of the crashes between the three routes (50.2%)
  • Over 10% of collisions involved an impaired bicyclist or driver                    

What Are the Impacts of Fresno County Crashes on Victims?

Even a seemingly minor crash can have a significant impact on the health of the victims involved. According to the team at Freedman Law, a wreck can cause injuries requiring “ongoing medical care or adaptive equipment.” There is also the possibility of incurring a serious lifetime disability. Many victims also suffer emotional trauma in even a low-speed crash, while potentially incurring lingering injuries that impact them for years to come.

We display the wide range of injuries caused by crashes on routes 41, 99, and 180 below. Routes 180 and 99 had the same number of fatal injuries caused by collisions in 2021 (12), but the 99 had more serious injuries over the same period. Route 41 had the least injuries in all categories except collisions where there were possible injuries.

 

In a Fresno County Crash, Did the Victim’s Airbag Deploy?

Properly wearing a seat belt as it is meant to be worn and riding in a vehicle with a functional airbag can save a crash victim’s life. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that a motor vehicle’s frontal airbag is designed to deploy during a moderate to severe collision. Usually, this means that the airbag should deploy if the vehicle strikes a fixed object at eight mph or higher speeds. We wondered how many accidents in Fresno caused at least one vehicle’s airbag to deploy and were able to find this information in the TIMS dataset.

 

Final Takeaways on Fresno County Highway Crashes

When it comes down to determining fault for collisions, human error is oftentimes determined to be the cause of a crash. However, several factors behind the scenes influence a motor vehicle collision, many of which are difficult or impossible to detect without a professional investigation. Vehicular failures, dangerous roads, and unsafe weather conditions are amongst the factors that can influence or directly result in a wreck. To stay safe on the roads of Fresno and elsewhere in the U.S., always pay attention to what’s happening on the highway around you and stay aware of your car’s limitations.  

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