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Focus on California road deaths: reversal of downward trend

It depends on who you talk to.

Whether things are getting better or worse on California's highly varied roadways -- that is, from a safety perspective -- seems to be, well, variable and just a bit hard to pin down with any certainty.

There is empirical evidence, of course -- reams of data that analyze state trends and areas of both optimism and concern, as well as point to strategies that might be reasonably employed to drive down traffic-related injuries and deaths.

That evidence points in more than one direction, though.

On the one hand, and as noted in a recent media focus on California traffic fatalities, being behind the wheel of a moving vehicle is apparently a far safer activity these days than it was 50 years ago.

On the other hand, though, a plethora of relevant statistics reveal that streets and freeways across the state are more dangerous than they were just a few short years ago.

Thus, there is this picture: long-term improvement, but a rather sudden reversal -- a glitch, if you will, a hopefully short-lived anomaly -- of safety gains.

That glitch is rendered quite apparent through perusal of traffic fatality-related information culled by state officials within the past decade. The data indicate a "dramatic" downward spike in road deaths between 2006 and 2010. In fact, the number of Californians who lost their lives in traffic accidents in 2010 was fully 36 percent lower than was the case five years prior to that.

That salutary trend hasn't continued, though. Fatalities are once again climbing, and safety authorities are obviously concerned.

We'll take a closer reason at that phenomenon in our next blog post.

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