There is some good news and some bad news in a recent analysis of traffic accident statistics in Thousand Oaks, California. The good news is that the rate of traffic accidents fell precipitously during the pandemic and has yet to recover to the previous highs. The bad news is that the trend is gradually approaching those pre-pandemic numbers.
One area where Thousand Oaks has seen a significant rise is in the number of alcohol related accidents. After a low figure of 29 such cases in 2020, the numbers have trended upwards. With the 2022 figure clocking in at 58, that represents an actual 100% rise over a mere two years. Not only is this a significant jump over a short period of time, it has also blown past the pre-pandemic numbers as well.
Meanwhile, the number of hit-and-run accidents has been mired in something of a trading range, to use a stock market analogy. From a low of nine such incidents in 2020, hit-and-run reports rose to 16 in 2021 and then settled back down slightly to 13 in 2022.
Comparing reports from Ventura County to the overall California statewide statistics shows that they are closely, but not exactly, tracking one another. Here again, we see elevated numbers in the pre-pandemic years. This is followed by an abrupt collapse in collisions during the pandemic itself and a gradual rise ever since.
Keep in mind that these elevated accident figures are occurring despite having ever-safer vehicles on the road. Every year, there are more vehicles in service that are equipped with anti-lock brakes, blind spot warning systems, back-up cameras, and more. Public awareness and traffic safety campaigns should be reducing the level of alcohol-related incidents but they aren’t.
This leads one to wonder what sort of changes are needed in order to attain a lasting solution to climbing accident rates. Stiffer penalties for repeat offenders might be one way to reduce the havoc on our roads. A lot of accidents are caused by the same people who will not stop driving whether they have a license or not. This is especially true of hit-and-run drivers. Since they often don’t have a license or insurance, they have very little incentive to stick around in the event of a collision.
Keeping unsafe vehicles off the road could also be of benefit. California does a pretty good job of removing dangerous vehicles, but there is always room for improvement in any inspection program. Monetary incentives for people, and businesses in particular, to upgrade to newer and more safer cars and trucks could help a lot as well.
Ultimately, however, it all comes down to the motor vehicle operator. The old saying is that a car’s weakest part is the nut holding the wheel, and there is some validity to that. Improved driver aids in the form of Artificial Intelligence show great promise. One day we might live in a society where the car does all the driving for us. We will arrive safe at out destinations, no matter what.
Yet that is still in the future. Until then, the best we can do is to keep our vehicles in good running order and be aware of the traffic around us at all times. So many accidents are caused by a momentary distraction. Drive safe and maintain your distance from anyone else who appears to be not driving safely. Don’t become part of those climbing accident statistics just because you are in a hurry or didn’t pay enough attention.