The Five Deadliest Highways for Orange County Car Accidents

Southern California drivers know full well that our streets, highways, and interstates are among the most dangerous in the country, and problems are getting worse instead of better. The morning and afternoon rush hours that were once distinguished from each other with lower volumes of traffic in between, are now a continuous rush hour that begins around 6 a.m. and extends beyond 8 a.m. night. Combine an astonishing number of vehicles with traffic jams, excessive speeds, road construction, cell phones, drugs, alcohol and highway rage and mix well. You now have a recipe for a deadly cocktail of car accidents in a state that leads the nation in car accidents, deaths and injuries every year.

Although Orange County, California is not the most dangerous county for car accidents statistically in Southern California, this is true only because the worst of the worst surrounds it. That ignominious distinction belongs to Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. However, the fact that Orange County is slightly less deadly than its neighbors provides little comfort to people who drive on local roads and witness Orange County car accidents every day. Even less reassuring is the fact that people who drive the county’s deadliest roads know they are dangerous, but continue to travel as they really have no alternatives.

What are the five deadliest highways for car accidents in Orange County? Let’s start with the worst, which is Interstate 5, the main artery connecting Los Angeles and San Diego. I-5 has a fatal accident rate of 0.85 deaths per mile. From 2004 to 2008, 798 people lost their lives in fatal I-5 car accidents in California, with the vast majority of deaths occurring in and around Orange County and neighboring counties.

Most people assume that the interstates in Southern California are the most dangerous as they handle the highest volume of traffic. However, this assumption is incorrect, as statistically, California’s state, county, and municipal highways are much more dangerous, Interstate 5 notwithstanding. In fact, four of the five deadliest highways for car accidents in the county Orange’s are state and local highways like California Route 73. Route 73 follows the contours of the San Joaquin Hills, connecting Santa Ana and San Juan Capistrano. The posted speed limit on this 17-mile stretch of road is 65 mph. However, Cal Trans studies indicate that the fastest five percent of average driver speeds are 82 mph with tragically predictable results.

The third deadliest highway in Orange County for car accidents is scenic Route 74, or the Ortega Freeway. Speeding drivers who fail to navigate the curves on Route 74 often swerve into oncoming traffic, and guardrails in place to avoid steep drops into ravines are not always successful in doing so.

Not only is beautiful Laguna Canyon Road one of Orange County’s deadliest roads for car accidents, it’s one of the deadliest in the country. It’s number four on our list, and one section of this highway is so dangerous that local residents say they will go out of their way to avoid traveling down Laguna Canyon Road past Big Bend Road.

Rounding out the top five is Route 261 or Jamboree Road. Apparently one of the best options for crossing Orange County to Balboa Island, the daily traffic volume on this route far exceeds the expectations of planners with unsurprising results. Until Southern California gets serious about creating a more responsive mass transit system to accommodate the area’s millions of commuters, we can expect to see more inevitable results measured in car accidents and lives lost in Orange County.

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