The Hidden Dangers of California’s Scenic Coastal Highways: Accident Statistics and Safety Tips

by Staff Blogger | October 16th, 2023

California’s coastal highways are nothing short of breathtaking. Stretching along the Pacific Ocean, they offer some of the most spectacular views in the world. From the iconic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to the scenic Route 101, these roads are integral to the California experience.

However, navigating these highways can be dangerous. Heavy traffic, unexpected sharp curves, unpredictable weather, and looming cliffs make driving in these areas treacherous, especially at night.

Understanding how to travel safely on California’s coastal roads can help prevent accidents and maintain the integrity of the natural landscape. If you suffer injuries in a vehicle collision, our California car accident lawyers can explain your legal options and help you seek compensation.

What the Stats Say

Every year, multiple accidents happen on California’s coastal highway. For example, The Hollywood Reporter found that between 2012 and 2022, there were 49 fatalities on a 21-mile stretch of the PCH in Malibu alone.

Counties with coastal areas experienced a high number of accidents, resulting in fatalities and injuries in 2020. The California Office of Traffic Safety reports the following statistics for popular coastal areas such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Orange County:

County Total Fatal and Injury AccidentsAlcohol InvolvedSpeed RelatedNighttime Accidents (9:00 p.m. to 2:59 a.m.)
Los Angeles26,1322,2823,2972,784
San Diego4,094621530470
San Francisco2,777259434307
Orange County12,7981,2822,8661,177

Causes of Coastal Highway Accidents

Accidents on coastal highways happen for many reasons. Crashes on these scenic roads are often due to driver negligence, such as:

  • Distracted driving. While panoramic ocean views are mesmerizing, they can pull a driver’s focus away from immediate hazards, leading to delayed reactions or missed signs.
  • Speeding. Drivers often speed on open stretches of road on coastal highways. However, these roads’ unpredictable curves and winding nature make speeding hazardous.
  • Impaired driving. Coastal routes, often dotted with nightlife spots and eateries, mean some drivers operate their vehicles under the influence of alcohol. This impairment hinders judgment, reflexes, and driving capability, escalating the risk of collisions.
  • Adverse weather conditions. Proximity to the ocean means sudden fog banks or unexpected rain showers, altering road conditions in a heartbeat. This can lead to reduced visibility and slippery surfaces, demanding greater caution from drivers.

Tips for Safe Coastal Highway Driving

When driving on the California coast, you can help prevent an accident by operating your vehicle safely and being aware of others on the road. The following tips can help you stay safe and reduce your risk of involvement in a car crash:

  • Obey speed limits. Follow posted speed limits, as they can change abruptly on California’s coastal highways. Excessive speed is a common cause of accidents, and strict enforcement ensures road safety.
  • Avoid distractions. Focus on the road; don’t use your phone, adjust the radio, or engage in distractions. Coastal highways require full attention due to twists, turns, and potential hazards like landslides or boulders.
  • Use headlights in low visibility. Use your headlights during adverse conditions to improve your view of the road and help other drivers see you. In fog, turn on low-beam lights instead of high-beam to increase visibility for you and other road users.
  • Stay alert to curves. Pay attention to road signs warning of upcoming turns. Reduce your speed before entering a curve to maintain control of your vehicle.
  • Follow local traffic regulations. Familiarize yourself with California’s traffic rules, including right of way, lane passing, and yielding to emergency vehicles. Complying with these regulations promotes smooth traffic flow and prevents accidents.
  • Obey DUI laws. California has strict DUI laws. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs — not only is it illegal, it can cause serious harm to you, your passengers, and others on the road. Designate a sober driver or use alternative transportation if you plan to drink.

Prioritize Your Safety on California’s Coastal Highways

California’s coastal highways offer more than just picturesque landscapes; they showcase California’s natural beauty. Driving responsibly and exercising caution helps protect all road users and preserve these routes for new generations.

At Berg Injury Lawyers, we protect your rights when an irresponsible driver causes harm. If you suffer injuries due to another’s negligence, our legal team can work to settle your case and help get you the best results possible, as quickly as possible.

Contact us today for a free consultation where we can review your case and help you start a vehicle accident claim.