Best and Worst Places to Drive in California

California has a reputation as being a colorful state full of some of the best of what this country has to offer. The weather is always beautiful, the gorgeous beaches are everywhere and the people who live there are some of the most eccentric and amazing on the planet. With all those wonderful things there is bound to be something bad. California is also known for its treacherous driving conditions. This can be attributed to any number of things from bad drivers, to tricky roads and extreme weather conditions. California is very densely populated. Anywhere with a lot of people in it is going to have a higher number of accidents. Travelling through California can be a nightmare or a dream. This compendium of information will serve as a guide to help you make the most of your trip.

Most Unsafe California Cities to Drive In

Statistics have shown that the most dangerous driving conditions in California are on some of the most rural areas of the state. Counties such as Humbolt, Imperial, Mariposa, Trinity, Mono, Glenn, Modoc, Colusa, Del Norte, and Plumas have the worst record for accidents on their roads. For instance, the mountainous Trinity county has a relatively low amount of accidents each year, there is continuously a higher rate of fatalities than in larger counties in the state. Glenn county is another small, rural area with an outrageous amount of accidents per capita. Other than these rural areas, there are a few larger cities that are just as dangerous.

San Diego

San Diego is a large city and most large cities have a high percentage of accidents. San Diego is different in that the majority of their accidents can be attributed to Interstate 5, known locally as The 5, and the treacherous area known as The Merge. The Merge is an area that quickly reduces the amount of lanes, causes quick stopping and congests traffic immensely. It is a major freeway that runs north/south along the San Diego coastline. There can be as many as a million drivers on the freeway every day. It is a labyrinth of connections with other freeways and even the most frequent of I5 drivers can easily become frustrated and confused.


Upland is dangerous to drive in because of Interstate 10. The 150-mile span of I-10 between Phoenix to the border of California is particularly harrowing although it is also hazardous through Santa Monica, Los Angeles and San Bernardino. This areas accidents are usually attributed to high traffic volume but there are also a high percentage of speeding and distracted driving accidents. This expanse of road is so dangerous the California Department of Transportation has built accident investigation sites to study the causes of the fatal accidents.

Los Angeles

Having a large population is one reason there are so many accidents here. Interstate 15 is another reason. Eight million driver a year travelling along I-15. This 180-mile stretch of road has graced the pages of popular mechanics in their Top 10 Most Dangerous Roads in America list. A study of 14 recent years showed 466 fatalities occurred on I-15. Experts say distracted driving, impaired driving and lack of seatbelts are to blame for most of the accidents on this Interstate.

Safest California Cities to Drive In

The safest roads for driving in California run the gamut of big cities and small towns. The criteria for this judgement was data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Data concerning the number of fatalities from driving accidents was compared to population numbers to determine the amount of traffic related deaths per 100,00 people living in the city.

Daly City

This large city is surprisingly accident free for a city of this size. It is the largest city in the seaside county of San Mateo. It is also a busy hub for commuters which is another reason its safe status is surprising. Another astonishing factor is the San Francisco International Airport. Despite all these traffic drawing attributes, less than 1% of the states traffic fatalities occurred in San Mateo county.


The largest city in Placer County, famous for the Gold Rush days, is Roseville. Most of the car wrecks in this county for the previous 14 years have been single vehicle incidents. Of the 13 fatalities that took place, 11 were single vehicle crashes and 3 involved alcohol, making this one of the safest larger cities in the whole state.

San Rafael

San Raphael is in one of the most affluent counties in the whole country, Marin. Muir Woods and Point Reyes, some of the areas largest and most beautiful attractions are located there. Despite these heavy traffic destinations, the city remains extremely safe for drivers. While there are several accidents here each year, fatalities are few. This may be because of proper seatbelt use as all reported accidents had occupants wearing their seatbelts.


Napa is wine country and there are Tuscany-like vineyards everywhere. Michelin-starred restaurants are on every corner. It would be easy to think that alcohol related accidents run rampant here but not so. In fact, regardless of tourists and abundantly flowing wine, there was only 1 alcohol related wreck in all of the years studies. There were zero pedestrian or cyclist accidents. Just like any state in the union, there are safe and unsafe places to drive. Take all the factors of the trip into consideration when planning your route and wear your seatbelt at all times to keep your California drive enjoyable regardless of your destination.

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