It’s no secret that the California Central Valley is one of the country’s busiest trucking and freight corridors. And while that’s great for the economy and getting Amazon packages delivered on time, it also exposes locals in the area to a greater risk of trucking accidents.
Situated between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, Central Valley communities experience a disproportionate danger of trucking accidents. Between the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Francisco and the freight routes to and from Canada and Mexico, Central California gets a mind-boggling amount of trucking traffic. Not to mention, offshore drilling companies send hundreds of oil tanker trucks through the state every day.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that the average tractor-trailer, freight truck, or big rig weighs as much as 20 to 30 times as the average passenger car. As a result, truck accidents often lead to catastrophic injuries and even death for nearby motorists.
Because of these heightened risks, the trucking industry is highly regulated. Truck drivers can only work for a certain number of hours per day before they must pull over and rest. And yet, some trucking companies operate on demanding or impossible deadlines, pushing their drivers beyond the limits of safety. Exhausted drivers make mistakes, which can lead to tragic crashes.
Read on to find out which Central California towns are the most dangerous for trucking accidents. If you’ve been hurt in a crash with a commercial truck or if you’ve lost a loved one to a trucking accident, you can hold the trucking company responsible. A personal injury or wrongful death lawyer can help you get the justice you deserve.
1. Interstate 5, the Most Dangerous Road in the U.S.
A recent study found that Interstate 5 was actually the most dangerous road in the United States, with 544 fatal crashes between 2015 and 2019. Some of the most dangerous corridors along the 5 run through Kern County, San Joaquin County, and Sacramento County.
Even though the 5 is fairly straightforward – and literally a straight line in some parts – it has a fatality rate of 107.4 people per 100 fatal crashes. This is not surprising as the flat, straight road allows for drivers to travel at dangerously high speeds. The monotony of such a straight road can also present a challenge – it’s much easier for drivers to doze or drift off.
2. Fresno, Especially CA State Route 99
Highway 99 runs over 400 miles between Bakersfield and Red Bluff through the Central Valley to connect major population centers such as Sacramento, Modesto, and Fresno. In some studies, California State Route 99 is labeled the most deadly highway in the U.S. And most of those fatal accidents occur in or around Fresno, Bakersfield, and the Grapevine.
Route 99 is an old highway, which makes it more dangerous than modern roads, especially for today’s massive tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers. As the Golden State Highway, it was once the major north-south corridor through California until the 5 opened.
Poor visibility, dark roads, and a high incidence of drunk driving are the biggest problems on highway 99, where 40% of all traffic accidents happen at night because of the lack of lighting.
3. California State Route 49 Near Sacramento
Despite being only 40 miles long, Highway 49 in Placer and Nevada counties is so dangerous that locals once created a Citizens for Highway 49 Safety group to work on solutions.
It doesn’t help that this route from Bear Valley to Coulterville is filled with sharp twists and turns. This makes unfamiliar motorists and tourists drive slowly, while motorcyclists and regular drivers are more likely to speed and try to pass slower traffic on the left. Although improvements like extra streetlights and turn lanes have been added, head-on crashes remain a major problem on highway 49 because there’s no protective barrier between directions.
4. California State Route 166 in Cuyama
Highway 166 goes through Cuyama between Bakersfield, connecting the Central Valley to the Central Coast near Santa Barbara. This winding 2-lane road is also a common route for agricultural products across the region, which means heavy truck traffic.
Route 166 has similar issues as highway 49, where the lack of median barriers allows speeding traffic to try and pass slower traffic on the left, leading to head-on collisions.
5. Bakersfield and Kern County
Bakersfield is a major stop along many highways traveling in all directions through California, including I-5 and Highway 99. Because Kern County is a large population center in the Central Valley, trucks passing through the area are much more likely to encounter regular commuters and even cyclists and pedestrians. This puts many more people at risk in truck accidents.
One particular problem involves accidents on rural highways throughout Kern county. In many cases, these roads are not actually equipped to handle today’s big rigs.
6. Stockton and San Joaquin County
Similar to Bakersfield, Stockton is another city situated along multiple major highway routes connecting the region, including – you guessed it – I-5 and Highway 99.
Unfortunately, large transport hubs like Stockton are bound to experience an increase in trucking accidents because of the sheer number of trucks going through the area. When it comes to size and force, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and passenger car motorists are seriously outmatched against an 18-wheeler or tractor-trailer.
Truck driver fatigue, distracted driving, poor choices, and driver panic contribute the most to the thousands of trucking accidents that happen every year in the U.S. If you’ve been caught on the wrong end of a tractor-trailer or big-rig crash, you should talk to a personal injury lawyer about your rights. The company responsible for your losses could be liable for damages.
At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, your consultation is free. We work on contingency, which means you don’t pay us until we win for you. Our team is bilingual in Spanish and English. Contact us now to speak to an experienced truck accident lawyer serving the Central California Valley.