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Economic health and traffic accidents: yes, there's a connection

The economy is bouncing back in California and that is … bad for drivers?

Conversely, notes an official with the state's Office of Traffic Safety, "Every time there's been a recession in California, there's been a decline in roadway fatalities."

Relevant statistics certainly seem to be bear out the asserted nexus between economic barometers and motor vehicle accident numbers.

To wit: A recent article discussing California vehicle accident statistics and trends states that 2005 was "the height of the boom/bubble" that existed just before the arrival of the so-called Great Recession. Vehicle-related fatalities in the state numbered 4,329 that year.

Five years later, in 2010, the economy in California and nationally bottomed out. The reported vehicle accident death toll in California that year was 2,715.

In troubling fashion (though predictable, say some commentators), the economy's resurgence in recent years has brought a corresponding uptick in fatality numbers. Although the 3,074 traffic-related deaths that occurred in the state last year pale in comparison with the 2005 figure, they spell a consecutive-year rise in the death toll that dates back to 2010.

In other words, traffic deaths are jumping every year in California, in lock step with improved economic performance.

With more money in their pockets, more Californians are of course buying cars and spending more time on state roads commuting to and from work, going shopping and taking vacations. The increased number of vehicles logically ups the odds for roadway accidents.

And, to be sure, safety officials aren't discounting the accident-causing role played by distracted mobile devices. One estimate posits that such devices -- centrally smartphones -- are a catalyst in up to 20 percent of all crashes.

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