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Hoping for a reversal: California crash numbers show upward trend

On average, California state regulators spent nearly $270,000 per day -- that is, every day -- on programs aimed at promoting highway safety during a recent year.

That equated to $98 million-plus doled out during 2013, with hopeful expectations being obviously attached to the disbursement.

Unfortunately, and as noted in a recent media article focusing on California traffic fatalities that year, returns on that investment were underwhelming.

In fact, they were tragic, in the most literal sense.

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) compiles, analyzes and publicly reports crash-related statistics for accidents occurring within the state. The numbers it has released for 2013 -- the most recent year for which data are comprehensively available -- are flatly dismal.

And very sad.

Take motorcycle accidents, for example. The OTS states that 453 motorcyclists died in crashes in the state during 2013. The fatality number for 2012 was 447, which spelled a 23 percent jump in fatalities from 2011. Safety regulators see a troubling trend, which is even further evidenced by statistics that had shown a drop in bike deaths prior to the renewed uptick for several successive years.

And it's not just motorcyclists that are at clear risk on the state's streets and freeways. OTS-derived data point to 3,000 vehicle-related deaths in California in 2013. Drunk driving was reportedly a factor in 867 fatal crashes, up from 829 DUI-related fatalities in 2012. More pedestrians succumbed to fatal injuries in 2013 than in the immediately preceding year, with more than 700 people on foot dying after being struck by a vehicle. Bicyclists' deaths were up too over the same measuring period, from 121 to 141.

Money spent on safety enforcement and educational efforts is of course critically important. Clearly, though, even more needs to be done to render California roadways truly safe for all the people who use them.

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